Turbines creating green energy from West Texas winds
by: NICOLE TRUGILLO/Editor-in- Chief
Electricity is an everyday necessity.
Electricity is so important that scientists are developing ways to produce energy without harming the planet. Wind energy is one of those developments.
According to Salvador Molinar, Title V instructor in Wind and Solar Energy at the Plainview campus of South Plains College, the program teaches students everything they need to know about wind energy.
“Our program basically contains starting the students off with simple electronics and digital electronics where they get the basics on how electricity starts to work and produced,” says Molinar. “Then we go a little a higher, such as working with electricity. We teach them how the motors are hooked up and the contactors. We teach them things that have to be used to make that motor run. We go over it in great detail and get the students to understand how the motor is going to run with all the components.”
Molinar explains that he also takes his students through troubleshooting classes, which will help the students fix a turbine when they are working on one.
“We teach them how to fix motors and find the faults that are causing the turbines to go haywire,” Molinar says. “ELPT (Electrical and Power Transmission Technology) is a class that we teach about electronic controllers, the sensor, and the motors, everything that is going to be operational. ELPT does read anything that might be going wrong with that turbine.”
The ELPT will read it, and as the technician looks at it, he or she can actually go to the turbine, find the problem and fix it, according to Molinar.
“With the ELPT, they also call it escape assistance,” Molinar explains. “They can actually control the turbines miles away from where it is. So, that’s another reason why we teach the ELPT program. That way the students know how to interface those ELPT with the turbine, and not only that, but let’s just say the students decide to go to another company. In a different type of industry, they use the ELPT towards that.”
The wind energy program also teaches students a networking program, which is the communication in the ELPT, according to Molinar. The networking deals with trying to connect the headquarters of the wind energy farm to communicate to the turbine or any other equipment.
“We will even take them through a climbing scenario out at the Reese campus,” explains Molinar. “We take them there. That way they know that climbing a wind turbine is actually for them or not. Because some people are scared of heights, we take them through those scenarios to let them decide if the wind industry is right for them, or they figure out and think,‘This may not be for me. You have to climb.’ We kind of get them ready for the climbing part of it. We get the students ready for all the aspects of it.”
According to Molinar, the instructors only let the students climb the little tower, which is located near Building 6 on the Reese Center campus.
“It’s about 30 feet, and we take them through the scenarios and they have to actually repel off of it and do a climb rescue,” says Molinar. “So, they can get the hang of it. If you’re going to be scared of 30 feet, there is no reason why you should be going 200 feet up in the air. Because of safety reasons, we don’t let students go up to the turbine, because there is a lot of liability things that can happen.”
The wind energy program teaches the students how to tie their equipment to themselves.
“We show them how to use the equipment, and when they do go to work, even when they do go through some training on their own, each company will train them on how they want, at least they will know what’s going on,” says Molinar.
Molinar explains that wind energy is produced by magnets rubbing against a wire that is in the generator of the turbine.
“What wind energy does is inside on top of the tower there is a little square box, and then you have the blades right in front of it,” says Molinar. “Inside that square box, there is a generator. When the wind is blowing and making those blades turn, the generator is turning and the generator has magnets in it. When those magnets are turning, they are producing electricity, which is passed on to some transformers. From there, the transformer pushes it up to the electrical lines and sends it and distributes it to different areas.”
According to Molinar, when someone rubs magnets around a piece of wire, they will get some type of electricity.
“That generator has magnets in it, and it has wires inside of it,” explains Molinar. “When you turn those magnets around, the wire will produce some type of electricity. But that’s a lot of magnets and a lot of wires, which produces a lot of electricity. That wind is what’s making that turbine turn.”
Molinar believes that wind energy is becoming more popular, and more companies are trying to build bigger and taller wind turbines.
“The bigger the turbine is, the more wind mass it will capture, and the more energy it will produce,” explains Molinar. “Some companies look into building 500-foot wind turbines. There is also new inventions that they are trying to figure out, such as sending some in an air balloon. They put the turbine way up in the atmosphere, and they produce electricity that way.”
According to Molinar, wind energy is mostly profitable, meaning electric companies won’t lower the electric bill. But there are other ways to benefit from it.
“You can have a small turbine in your yard that will produce electricity for your house,” says Molinar. “A lot of those wind turbines you can get a grant to help pay for it. You can also get the government to help out, and you can get tax breaks. If they put a wind turbine on your property, then you will get a check for them to have it there on your property.”
Molinar says that the reality is that fossil fuels can’t be replenished, and our society needs something to fall back on.
“We probably won’t see it in our life time when the fossil fuels deplenish,” Molinar explains. “For right now, they are thinking of ways ahead of time to produce electricity for our household and our needs. We will always have the wind. Whether it’s 10-mile-per-hour wind or 50-mile-per-hour wind, we will always be producing some type of electricity. It is something that is going to stay here for a long time, and we’re not going to see it go away anytime soon. It’ll be here for the long haul.”