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Wind energy uses the energy in the wind for practical purposes like generating electricity, charging batteries, pumping water, or grinding grain. Large, modern wind turbines operate together in wind farms to produce electricity for utilities. Small turbines are used by homeowners and remote villages to help meet energy needs.

Wind turbines capture the wind's energy with two or three propeller-like blades, which 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 aboveground.

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.


Modern windmill


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 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 turbines can be used as stand-alone applications, or they can be connected to a utility power grid or even combined with a photovoltaic (solar cell) system. Stand-alone turbines are typically used for water pumping or communications. However, homeowners and farmers in windy areas can also use turbines to generate electricity. For utility-scale sources of wind energy, a large number of turbines are usually built close together to form a wind farm. Several electricity providers today use wind farms to supply power to their customers.




How Wind Enertgy Works

Learn More about how wind turbines work, the different types and sizes of wind turbines, and the different parts inside of a wind turbine.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Wind Energy

Further explore some of the advantages and challenges facing the fastest-growing source of energy in the world.

History of Wind Energy

Explore the history of Wind Energy starting as far back as 5000 B.C. right through to present day.

Emerging Wind Applications

Wind turbines are used around the world for many applications. Wind turbine use ranges from homeowners with single turbines to large wind farms with hundreds of turbines providing electricity to the power grid.

Research

Research advances have helped drop the cost of energy from the wind dramatically during the last 20 years. Research is carried out by research labs, universities, and utility organizations.

Wind Resource

The wind is the fuel source for wind energy. The United States has many areas with abundant winds, particularly in the Midwest and Great Plains. Understanding the wind resource is a crucial step in planning a wind energy project. Detailed knowledge of the wind at a site is needed to estimate the performance of a wind energy project.

Economics

The cost of energy from the wind has dropped by 90% during the last 20 years. Incentives like the federal production tax credit and net metering provisions available in some areas improve the economics of wind energy.

Article credit: Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, US Department of Energy.