Quiz: What You Don’t Know About Wind Energy


Photograph by Pascal Rossignol, Reuters

You've seen those tall white turbines turning on hillsides or on windy plains, but how much do you know about the energy captured from wind?

What nation had the largest amount of overall wind energy capacity installed as of 2015?

  • China
  • Denmark
  • Germany
  • The United States

In 2010, China overtook the United States as leader in installed wind energy capacity, with a building spree that increased its wind power base by 73 percent in just one year. By the end of 2014, it had 31 percent of the world's capacity; the U.S. had nearly 18 percent.

In what country does wind power provide the biggest share of the electricity supply?

  • China
  • Denmark
  • Germany
  • The United States

Denmark leads the world in reliance on wind power, which provided 34 percent of its electricity as of 2014, according to the World Wind Energy Association. The next most wind-dependent nations are Spain and Portugal, at 20 to 21 percent.

Wind energy actually relies on what other force of nature?

  • Solar energy
  • Water power
  • Geothermal power
  • The moon's gravitational pull

Wind is caused by the uneven heating of the Earth's surface by the sun.

What was wind energy's share of global electricity production at the end of 2014?

  • 1.1 percent
  • 2.1 percent
  • 3.1 percent
  • 5.1 percent

Wind power accounted for 3.1 percent of the world's total electricity, according to the nonprofit renewable energy network REN21. The overall share for renewables is 22.8 percent, the majority coming from hydropower.

As early as 200 B.C., wind power was used in China, and later, in Persia. How were the first windmills that appeared in Europe in the Middle Ages different from those earlier turbines?

  • They were used to generate electricity.
  • They turned on a horizontal axis.
  • They turned on a vertical axis.
  • They were used to grind grain.

Pumping water and grinding grain were the first recorded uses of wind power, but the iconic early windmills of Europe differed from their forerunners in Persia and China in that they turned on a horizontal axis instead of a vertical one.

Switching from turbines that are 80 meters (262 feet) tall to more advanced ones that are 140 meters (459 feet) tall would open up how much more land area of the United States to wind power?

  • 27 percent
  • 37 percent
  • 57 percent
  • 67 percent

According to a 2015 Department of Energy report, deploying taller, newer wind turbines would make 67 percent more land area suitable for wind energy, much of that in the Southeast.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, what is responsible for the most bird deaths?

  • Cars
  • Building window strikes
  • Communications towers
  • Wind turbines

Building window strikes may account for 97 million to 976 million bird deaths each year; cars, 60 million; communications towers, 4 to 5 million, the agency says. Wind turbine rotors kill an estimated 33,000 birds annually.

What measure has been shown to significantly reduce bat deaths at wind turbine sites?

  • Strobe lights
  • Intermittent high-pitched sound
  • Reduction in turbine rotations
  • No measures have been shown to mitigate bat mortality due to wind turbines.

A slight increase in the speed at which turbines are programmed to begin rotating reduced rotations and cut bat deaths by as much as 93 percent with less than a 1 percent power loss, a published study by researchers at Bat Conservation International found.

Off what coast was the world's first commercial offshore wind facility built?

  • Galveston, Texas
  • Borkum, Germany
  • Kent, in the United Kingdom
  • Vindeby, Denmark

The world's first commercial offshore wind facility was built in 1991 off the coast of Vindeby, Denmark, in the Baltic Sea.

How large is the wind energy potential off the coasts of the United States, compared to the nation’s current installed electricity capacity, according to government estimates?

  • 50 percent
  • 100 percent
  • 200 percent
  • 400 percent

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that more than 4,000 gigawatts, almost four times the current installed U.S. electrical capacity, of potential wind energy exists off the United States coasts. But as of summer 2015, only one offshore wind facility had begun construction.





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