Blowin’ in the Wind

Night has fallen for several hours now. The surrounding countryside is pitch black. Deer come out of the woods. Foxes hunt down careless mice. Owls scan the few cars that head up the road at these stray hours to reach the barely lit nearby village. The wind farm seems to be watching over nocturnal life.

The weather vane is on the lookout. Attached to the hub, it continuously calculates the wind’s direction and maneuvers the rotor. This way, the blades are always turned towards the wind, as light as it is. In the distance, they stand ready. They aren’t waiting passively; they’re seeking out the wind. Nervous, they oscillate from left to right. They want it. They stand inclined at 45° as a sprinter stands in a precarious balance in the starting blocks, rocking his shoulders slightly beyond the race line. And then, the leaves of trees quiver a bit more; several bursts of fresh air blow up dust and rustle the leaves. The wind picks up. It’s the wind everyone is accustomed to in this region: the southwest wind, which comes from the ocean. It anticipates the rain and sweetness that will characterize the next day. The blades then catch the wind. This left to right movement is converted for the first time into a complete rotation, then two, then three…Inside the machine, the arsenal that was waiting, made of mechanics, electronics and hydraulics, enters in the order of battle. In the nacelle, only a few feet from the blades, the generator is getting excited; the converter further harmonizes the electricity and the transformer exalts the voltage. “Crack!” A short popping noise reverberates in the wind turbine. The converter’s contractor has just closed.

This is how the electrical path is opened. A few minutes ago, the breeze blew on the blade. Seconds later, the electrons produced reached the local power grid so that this natural element could serve our needs. The machine has captured this natural element. Outside, nature continues its peaceful exploration of the night.