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Many of us have seen one of these wind machines that we misnamed “windmills”, either in their surroundings, on an endless car journey full of horizons to discover, or on a screen. Wind turbines, which is what those responsible for transforming the designs of Aeolus into an inexhaustible channel of renewable energy for our use are really called, are technologically advanced equipment that bear many aesthetic similarities with the mills that have historically populated the landscapes of many countries (mainly dedicated to grinding grain thanks to a mechanical action as a result of harnessing the wind), although the harnessing of energy and its conversion into electricity, in addition to many other things that we will see later, makes them very different. So let’s see how an onshore wind farm works and which actors are behind this type of green energy.To understand how this type of energy works, the first thing to think about is that a wind turbine is not an individual element, but part of a larger and more complex entity: a wind farm. Individual wind turbines do exist in the case of small consumers, but that is a different story. This wind turbine is connected, both electrically and from the point of view of sending and receiving information, with the rest of the wind turbines and different elements that make up a wind farm. Thus, at all times, thanks to the sensorisation and intercommunication of the different elements, the operating company of the wind farm is aware of the real-time status of each wind turbine: mechanical problems, energy generated, electronic problems, technical stoppages…This is why an onshore wind farm is made up of the following elements in order for the whole system to work properly:
Main parts of an onshore wind farm
In this way, once the turbine comes into operation, by means of the rotational movement, it causes the generator installed in the nacelle to produce electrical energy thanks to the transformation of mechanical energy into electrical energy. In turn, the transformer raises the voltage, to avoid electrical losses, and the energy is fed into the medium voltage network, where it runs through underground wiring – in some countries such as the USA or Brazil this route is aerial – together with the energy generated by other wind turbines. At this point, the electrical energy reaches the transformer substation to be raised to high voltage and facilitate its evacuation to the transmission or distribution network, being distributed to the end consumer thanks to the role of the high and medium voltage transmission lines located on the electrical towers.
Now that we know the basic functioning of the onshore wind farm, it is time to zoom in on the wind turbine as an individual element, since its operation explains fundamentally how the energy generated by the wind is first converted into mechanical and then into electrical energy. To do this, let us first look at the parts that make up these modern contenders of Don Quixote.
Main elements of a wind turbine
Tower: In addition to being a simple giant pole on which the structure of the blades and the nacelle is erected, this large cylinder contains fundamental elements for the correct distribution of electricity:
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