Wind power is energy that is derived from wind. There are a number of ways to collect and use energy created by the wind, and this type of power is among the most ancient forms of energy used by humans. Windmills, wind turbines, and sails all use it to some extent, and these collection methods can be used in a variety of ways. The power created by wind is considered to be a form of clean energy, since wind is an entirely renewable resource. As of 2008, around 1% of the world's energy came from wind, with the industry growing significantly.
One way to use wind power is to harness the power directly. On a sailing ship, for example, the sail is positioned to allow the wind to push the ship along. Windmills have historically used wind to turn millstones or operate a pump for a well, using the energy directly on-site for various needs. These techniques have been in operation for thousands of years.
In the case of a wind turbine, the wind turns the turbine, which generates electricity, a usable form of energy. Electricity is also convenient because it can be transported off site, allowing the power to generate energy that will be used at remote locations. This form is less efficient than using the energy directly, because energy is lost in the conversion and transmission process.
Many nations have wind power programs as part of a larger push to use clean energy. Wind turbines can be installed in a variety of locations, with companies developing newer and more efficient turbines all the time. Many wind farms are located in typically windy areas, taking advantage of an ample supply of wind.
Wind power is not inherently environmentally friendly, although it has some environmental advantages. Building turbines requires a great deal of resources, as does transporting the turbines and establishing infrastructure to transport the generated electricity. A wind farm can also take up valuable land that could be used for farming, wildlife habitat, or housing. Some firms have worked on developing wind turbines that can be integrated into usable land, so that a farm is multipurpose. Others have focused on using renewable resources and environmentally sustainable practices in the construction of generators to reduce the environmental cost of establishing a generation facility.
Despite these drawbacks, wind energy is considered preferable to many forms of energy generation, including coal burning power plants and nuclear power. These methods tend to be polluting, and they use resources that are not renewable. In the case of nuclear power, while the energy generation is itself fairly clean, the spent nuclear fuel represents a serious problem. Wind is also preferable to hydroelectric power, which involves constructing dams to harness the energy in water and can damage habitats and interfere with the health of waterways.