Wind - How Wind Turbines Work

Wind turbines capture the wind's energy with two or three propeller-like blades that are mounted on a rotor, to generate electricity. The turbines sit high atop towers, taking advantage of the stronger and less turbulent wind at 100 feet (30 meters) or more above ground.

A blade acts much like an airplane wing:

  • When the wind blows, a pocket of low-pressure air forms on the downwind side of the blade.
  • The low-pressure air pocket then pulls the blade toward it, causing the rotor to turn. This is called lift.
  • The force of the lift is actually much stronger than the wind's force against the front side of the blade, which is called drag.
  • The combination of lift and drag causes the rotor to spin like a propeller, and the turning shaft spins a generator to make electricity.

Wind Energy Centers work like this:

Stage Description
1 A computer  turns the nacelle and the rotor (which consists of three blades and a hub) to face into the wind.  The turbine blades turn a generator to produce electricity. For safety purposes, the turbine shuts down automatically if the wind speed exceeds 55 miles per hour.
2 The electricity travels down the inside of the tower through electrical cables to a transformer at the base of the wind tower.
3 From the transformer, the electricity flows through an underground collection cable to an on-site substation.
4 From the substation, overhead electrical cables take the electricity to an off-site substation and into high-voltage transmission lines.
5 The electricity goes from the high-voltage transmission lines into local distribution lines.
6 The electricity is then distributed to homes, schools, businesses and other consumers.