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How Wind Turbines Work

How Do Wind Turbines Work?

How wind turbines work can be explained as a conversion of kinetic energy (wind) to mechanic energy (turbine). Wind energy is essentially a form of solar energy since it is the sun that heats unevenly the Earth’s surface causing the breeze to blow.

 There are two basic types of wind generators including the horizontal axis wind turbine and the vertical axis wind turbine.

working wind turbine

Understandably one turns on a horizontal axis (or axel) and the other one upon a vertical axis (or axel).

Each type of wind turbine works in similar fashion. Basically, the wind blows past the wind generator blades or rotors causing a low pressure system on the trailing edge of the blades similar to a wing of an airplane. Utility scale wind turbine blades may need a wind speed of 10 mph or more to start turning while residential wind turbines may start rotating at speeds of 7 mph or less.

Smaller wind turbines will use a tail fan and larger devices will use computerized tracking to keep the blades pointing into the wind for optimal efficiency. Utility wind turbine blades are connected to shafts, gears, generators and electrical control systems. These systems then interface with high-voltage transformers and then to the grid.

Small wind turbines such as those used at residences usually have the blades connected to a DC generator, power inverter, AC generator and bank of batteries. The home wind turbine is used to power the batteries, which in turn power the residence. An electrical contractor can tie in the home wind generator to the grid if desired.

How wind turbines work efficiently have to do with the size and shape of the rotors, the location of the turbine including geography and height and other basic mechanics that either cause more drag or less drag on the system. Many assume that the old style windmill with many blades is more efficient because of the number of rotors.

But, the number of rotors can actually add more drag, more weight and get in the way of wind flowing through the blade area. Two or three bladed turbines are most popular now days because of more thrust and less wind resistance.

One of the main factors that contribute to how wind turbines work is the kind of electromagnetic system that is used to generate electricity. The wind turbine blades are usually tied into something akin to the alternator in one’s car.

The alternator works because many loops of copper wire spin around at high speeds around an iron core, producing an electromagnetic current (electricity). The kind of electromagnetic induction can vary depending upon the size of the wind turbine and the manufacturer’s specifications and design.

How wind turbines work has changed over the years. The history of wind power starts with these renewable energy devices being used to grind grains and pump water. Over the years, the need to use wind turbines for electrical generation has come to the forefront and which is why so much development is taking place right now.