Putting Wind to Work

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The word wind usually conjures up an image of an unruly gust overturning umbrellas or a disastrous tornado demolishing everything in its path. But what you don’t see the wind do is provide an economical and environmentally sound energy for everyday life.

  • Wind Energy – How these machines work and why they are good for our environment.
  • International Renewable Energy – Links to pages in many languages, all across the internet pertaining to renewable energy in different countries. 
  • Wind Turbines – Learn what these large towers are and how they work.

The wind is caused by the shifting of atmospheric gases within the earth’s upper air systems. It is simply air molecules moving about, although the types of winds vary, usually based on speed. For example, a gale, hurricane, or a typhoon varies depending on the different patterns of motion and on their strength – but each one can be strong enough to blow your umbrella away. Each area of the world has different wind speeds and durations. Global wind patterns result from the solar energy of the earth being absorbed as well as the circulation and temperature difference between the poles. This results in the global wind patterns.

Something called the jet stream also affects weather and wind. This large air current can be anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 miles long, and several miles thick. The jet stream affects the weather, as it can literally carry hot or cold air across an entire continent. The jet stream was first discovered near Mount Fuji in 1920, and has since been a helpful indicator of weather patterns worldwide. The trade winds are another important system of wind, and these determine the direction and flow of tropical storms and other large storm cells. They are found in the tropics, near the Equator.

The two poles of the earth have two major wind patterns: the easterlies and westerlies. The easterlies typically come from the polar region, while the westerlies originate in the upper western hemisphere. Sometimes, these two patterns can collide causing storms to form. The wind is an important part of our lives, as we need it to operate things like hot air balloons and blimps, run sail boats, and most importantly, it can provide us with boundless energy to power our world. There are many different ways to measure wind. One is called the Beaufort Scale, and this method categorizes the winds on the water. A wind measuring instrument called an anemometer is also commonly used, as well as wind vanes. Here is more information on how wind can be applied, and how it affects our lives:

Wind Activities and Lesson Plans

  • What is Wind? – Classroom activities
  • For Educators – Lesson plans from PBS on wind power and the wind
  • Wind Machines – Activity to make machines that run solely on wind power
  • Climate change – Lesson plan for studying climate change, including wind related information
  • Celebrate the Wind – A wide variety of resources and plans for kids, from GE
  • E21: Energy Education – A series of student activities pertaining to renewable energy
  • Recycle Utah – Covers science all throughout elementary school.