West Chester University
According to the Department of Energy (DOE), the United States has enough wind resources to generate electricity for every home and business in the nation. However, this potential is not equally distributed across the country. Wind generation is one of the fast growing sources of electricity but even with over 11.6 gigawatts (GW) of installed capacity in 2006, this represented less than 1% of the US electrical generation capacity. The promise of wind is great because it can generate electricity without production of greenhouse gases or waste heat.
Wind can be used to generate electricity directly when a turbine driven by wind is hooked up to appropriate power electronics. It can also be used for mechanical work (traditional uses such as puming water and grinding grain) or emerging applications such as production of hydrogen from water..
Small wind turbines can be connected to homes, barns, factories and commercial buildings. Could you hook one up to your home or business? Here is a listing of essentially all small wind turbines from allsmallwindturbines.com/. The DOE provides a FAQ page for consumers considering the installation of small wind turbines on their property. Generally, you need to place a wind turbine at least 15 feet above your roof, while some suggest that it should be at least 30 feet above the highest object in the vicinity for the best air flow characteristics.
Wind farms are large commercial scale installations. These involve placing a large number of wind turbines (a few hundred to a few thousand) in one area and connecting them to the conventional electrical grid.
You can learn more about wind power at Ingreenious. or the American Wind Energy Association. The DOE provides information on the DOE wind programs. This includes a hisotry of wind energy and a tutorial on how wind turbines work.
Some have worried about the environmental impact of wind farms. The National Academies of Science recently released a report on this. The full report and free executive summary are available here. Newer large, slow moving turbines are less likely to kill or injure birds and the siting of wind farms can be arranged so as to mitigate the impact on birds and bats.
NREL has lots more information on wind power.