Frequently Asked Questions

Learn more about this renewable source of energy that’s good for our environment and our economy.

Why do some wind turbines spin, while others next to them do not?

Continuous variations in wind direction, speed and intensity cause some turbines to spin while others nearby may be idle.

 

How reliable is wind energy?

Sophisticated monitoring and wind resource analysis allow wind developers to estimate with a high degree of certainty "when" and "how much" wind energy is available, so customers can plan their wind power purchases. When the wind blows, it can displace fossil-fueled generation such as oil and gas. Studies have shown that when a utility diversifies its power portfolio with the addition of wind energy, it can meet demands more reliably.

 

What happens when the wind doesn't blow?

When the wind is calm, the turbine is at rest. However, at the hub height of a utility-scale wind turbine – usually more than 200 feet above ground – on a site selected specifically for its good wind resources, it is rare for the wind to be totally still.

 

Are there wind seasons?

Yes, but they vary by region. In California, the peak wind season is summer; in the Midwest, it's fall and winter; in Texas, spring is peak. Each wind plant has specific daily and seasonal variations. Each wind site also has specific wind patterns, which are determined through wind studies conducted during early development of a project.

 

Do wind turbines operate in extreme temperatures / weather conditions?

Turbines sited in areas that experience extreme cold or heat are equipped with special Arctic or tropical equipment packages. Nevertheless, in sustained winds of 56 mph or gusts of about 100 mph, turbines shut down automatically.

 

How often do turbines require maintenance?

Wind turbines generally require preventative maintenance checkups two to three times per year.

 

What does the computer system inside a wind turbine do?

The elaborate computer system inside a turbine performs thorough self-diagnostic tests and troubleshoots errors before the startup command is given. If the computer detects any problems it cannot auto-correct, the turbine automatically shuts down. In addition, a SCADA (system control and data acquisition) control system allows a remote operator (using a data link from anywhere in the country) to set new operating parameters, perform system checks and ensure turbines are operating at peak performance.

 

Is wind energy just the latest energy fad?

Not at all. Today, wind energy is the fastest-growing renewable energy resource in the world. Wind energy has always been clean and renewable and, over the past 20 years, the cost of wind energy has dropped about 80 percent. With the federal production tax credit, wind energy can be competitive with other energy sources.

 

SAFETY

How safe are wind turbines?

Wind energy is one of the safest energy technologies, with several built-in safety features.

"They also require minimal maintenance, and the reliability of wind turbines, measured in terms of availability to make electricity when the wind is blowing, is better than 98 percent." (Source: Paul Gipe, Wind Power Comes of Age, 1996)

 

What effect does lightning have on turbine operations?

Modern turbines are equipped with an extensive lightning protection system that transfers high voltages and currents without affecting turbine operations.

 

Are wind turbines noisy?

Wind turbines have moving parts, but the sound they make is virtually undetectable from a distance. You would have little difficulty conversing right beneath one.

ECONOMICS

 

What is the impact of new wind plants on the price of electricity to consumers?

While we cannot predict any direct correlation between new wind energy facilities and the price consumers will pay for electricity, easing the supply crunch with cost-efficient sources of power could prevent higher prices.

 

COMMUNITY

 

What involvement does the community have in a wind energy project?

Building a strong partnership with the community is critical to the success of every NextEra Energy Resources project. With community dialogue a vital component of our strategy, we start speaking with residents early in the project development process to introduce the project and solicit early feedback on our proposal. Our goals are to:

  • Establish a cooperative relationship with the community;
  • Listen to our neighbors;
  • Share information; and
  • Ensure that our proposal fits the interests and priorities of the community.

We also meet with elected and appointed officials, civic associations, environmental groups and other community organizations. We periodically share new information, as it becomes available, to provide project updates to the community.

 

ENVIRONMENT

 

Is an environmental review performed?

An environmental review is performed for every project. NextEra Energy Resources works to preserve cultural and environmental resources. Wind projects are sited in areas where there is good wind, the ability to transmit the energy, a market for the energy, and land use is compatible with a wind farm.

 

Will the plant cause any pollution?

No. Wind-generated power does not produce any greenhouse gas emissions, water emissions or solid waste byproducts.

PERMITTING PROCESS

What's involved in the permitting process?

Typical steps include:

  • Preapplication
  • Application review
  • Decision making
  • Administrative and judicial review
  • Permit compliance

Issues that might be addressed include:

  • Land use
  • Noise
  • Birds and other biological resources
  • Visual impact
  • Soil erosion
  • Water quality
  • Public health and safety
  • Cultural and paleontological resources
  • Socioeconomics, public services and infrastructure
  • Solid and hazardous wastes
  • Air quality and climate

For more detailed information, refer to Permitting of Wind Energy Facilities, a handbook prepared by the National Wind Coordinating Committee.

 

Who is involved in the permitting process?

Depending upon the size and potential impact of the proposed project, regulating bodies on the local, state and/or federal level might participate in the permitting process:

  • At the local level, the local planning commission, zoning board, city council or county board of supervisors or commissioners generally govern permitting. Many projects may also require some form of local grading or building permit to assure compliance with structural, mechanical and electrical codes.
  • On the state level, permits may be required from natural resource and environmental protection agencies, historic preservation offices, industrial development and regulation agencies, public utility commissions and/or siting boards.
  • Federal permitting authorities can include federal land management agencies (such as the U.S. Forest Service), the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

 

Is a power purchase agreement required before construction begins?

NextEra Energy Resources generally secures long-term commitments for a wind farm's output from one or more buyers prior to construction.

 

How long does the entire development process take, i.e., from submitting permits to producing electricity?

The length of time will vary from project to project, but wind farms can be brought on-stream faster than most other types of power-generating facilities. For example, natural gas power plants can take two to three years or more to develop. The permitting process for wind is less complex because wind energy does not have the same environmental impact as fossil-fueled power generators. Wind energy produces no emissions and no solid waste byproducts. The length of construction will depend primarily upon the number of turbines to be erected, the terrain and prevailing weather conditions. In some cases, this can all be accomplished within six to nine months.

 

UTILITIES

What effect do wind turbines have on the transmission grid?

Wind turbines can provide a unity power factor and help in stabilizing voltage. Newer wind generators have switched capacitors that are applied as generation and VAR demand increases, keeping power factor above 99 percent. One turbine now on the market uses power electronics and a variable speed rotor to automatically maintain the desired grid voltage or reactive power flow to the utility. This design feature is particularly beneficial to weaker grids.

 

How difficult is it to integrate wind turbines with utilities?

A study of system interface and operational issues by Robert Putnam of Electrotek Concepts found no insurmountable challenges. He noted, "Any issues that have developed, such as intermittency and voltage regulation, can be addressed by accepted power system procedures and practices." (Source: American Wind Energy Association in Wind Energy Weekly, #680, 15 January 1996)