How Does a Wind Turbine Create Electricity?
Both commercial and residential wind turbines use propellers and generators to harness wind energy before distributing it to power stations or homes.
Collecting Wind Energy
Wind turbines consist of a propellerlike structure connected to a gearbox, a drive train and a generator. The generator leads to ground wires and power relays. The entire structure sits atop a tower to make the most effect of increased wind speed. As the wind blows, the kinetic energy from the shaft turns the turbine in the same way that flowing water moves a turbine in a hydroelectric power plant. According to the American Wind Energy Association, there are two types of turbines: the propeller-shaped turbines seen on farms throughout the Midwest and the less common eggbeater-shaped ones. As of 2005, wind turbine-fueled generators can create over 56 MWh, or megawatt-hours, of electricity per year.
Electrical generators work by mechanical energy transfer, according to dieselserviceandsupply.com. As the wind turbine causes the shaft of the generator to turn, a coiled wire attached to the shaft turns between two oppositely charged magnets. The rotation creates a difference in voltage on the two ends of the wire. In turn, the increase in electricity flows through the wire and to a main power line. The amount of electricity generated by the wind turbine depends on how much mechanical energy comes from the wind itself.
After the electricity from the wind turbine is generated from the wind's mechanical energy, it can be distributed for use as energy in homes or other locations. First, the electricity goes through a transformer, which increases its voltage and makes it more likely to transfer over long distances. Power stations at factories or businesses, as well as fuse boxes in homes, receive the current and transform it to a lower voltage that can safely flow through wires.