Have you ever heard of “wind power” or “wind energy”?
As the term implies, wind energy or power is when electricity is created
by the wind (air flows), the kind that is naturally created in the earth’s
If you’ve ever taken a long road trip or taken a cross-country road
trip, you’ve probably seen what can be described as rows and rows
of massive windmills out in the middle of nowhere. Those machines are
actually called “turbines,” which
Collins Dictionary defines as “...a machine or engine which uses a stream of air, gas,
water, or steam to turn a wheel and produce power.”
According to the
American Wind Association (AWEA), “Modern wind turbines are used to capture kinetic [relating
to motion] energy from the wind and generate electricity.”
How Do Turbines Work?
So, how do wind turbines work? As the wind blows past a wind turbine, the
wind’s kinetic energy is captured by the blades, rotating them and
turning the wind into mechanical energy. As the blades rotate, they turn
an internal shaft that is connected to a gearbox, in effect increasing
the rotation speed by a factor of 100, according to the AWEA. This process
spins a generator, which then produces electricity.
Generally, modern turbines generate electricity once wind speeds are between
six and nine miles per hour (mph) – this is called “cut-in
speed.” If the wind is blowing too hard, for example, around 55
mph, the turbines will automatically shut down to protect the equipment
from sustaining damage.
“Another common measure of wind energy production is called capacity
factor. This measures the amount of electricity a wind turbine produces
in a given time period (typically a year) relative to its maximum potential,”
according to the AWEA.
Windmills vs. Wind Turbines
We used the word “windmill” earlier to describe wind turbines,
but they’re not the same thing and that’s a common misconception.
Windmills generate mechanical energy to grind grain and pump water, but
they don’t generate electricity. On the other hand, wind turbines
do; they capture the wind’s kinetic energy and convert it to kinetic energy.
If you’ve ever seen a bunch of wind turbines built close together,
what you’re witnessing is called a wind farm or a wind project,
which acts as a power plant, sending the electricity to the grid.
The 2 Types of Electricity