Wind turbines are used to generate electricity from the kinetic power of the wind. Historical they were more frequently used as a mechanical device to turn machinery. There are two main kinds of wind generators, those with a vertical shaft, and those with a horizontal shaft. Wind turbines can be used to generate large amounts of electricity in wind farms both onshore and offshore.
How do wind turbines work?
Wind turbines operate on a simple principle. The energy in the wind turns two or three propeller-like blades around a rotor. The rotor is connected to the main shaft, which spins a generator to create electricity. Click on the image to see an animation of wind at work
So how do wind turbines make electricity?
Simply stated, a wind turbine works the opposite of a fan. Instead of using electricity to make wind, like a fan, wind turbines use wind to make electricity. The wind turns the blades, which spin a shaft, which connects to a generator and makes electricity. View the wind turbine animation to see how a wind turbine works or take a look inside. Wind is a form of solar energy and is a result of the uneven heating of the atmosphere by the sun, the irregularities of the earth's surface, and the rotation of the earth. Wind flow patterns and speeds vary greatly across the United States and are modified by bodies of water, vegetation, and differences in terrain. Humans use this wind flow, or motion energy, for many purposes: sailing, flying a kite, and even generating electricity. The terms wind energy or wind power describe the process by which the wind is used to generate mechanical power or electricity. Wind turbines convert the kinetic energy in the wind into mechanical power. This mechanical power can be used for specific tasks (such as grinding grain or pumping water) or a generator can convert this mechanical power into electricity.
Types of wind turbines
Modern wind turbines fall into two basic groups: the horizontal-shaft variety, as shown in the photo to the far right, and the vertical-shaft design, like the eggbeater-style Darrieus model pictured to the immediate right, named after its French inventor. Horizontal-shaft wind turbines typically either have two or three blades. These three-bladed wind turbines are operated "upwind," with the blades facing into the wind.
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