How Wind Turbines Work To Generate Electricity

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Wind Turbines on a hillsideHave you always wondered how wind turbines work? Some people call them wind mills and others call them wind generators but the proper name for them is a wind turbine. In today’s article, I’ll be introducing you to the miracle of generating electricity with nothing more than the power of the wind that mother nature provides us with freely.

How Does Wind Energy Work?

Let’s get right to it and talk about how it is possible to generate electricity with the power of the wind. First, you need to understand a very simple principle. If you apply electricity to an electric motor, the shaft on the motor will spin. Interestingly enough, if you reverse the process and spin the shaft on an electric motor, electricity will come out of the same wires that are used to power the motor. Now that you understand this, you understand most of how wind turbines work to generate electricity.

How Do Wind Turbines Work To Convert Wind Into Electricity

Okay, now that you know that if you spin the shaft of an electric motor electricity is generated, let’s talk about how this principle is used in wind turbines. A wind turbine is made up of four main parts. The first is some form of an electric motor. As a general rule, the motors that work best in the construction of wind turbines are permanent magnet motors. Many wind turbines have been constructed using car alternators but permanent magnet motors are more efficient at generating electricity which is why they are favored the most.

how does wind energy work infographicThe second part of a wind turbine is the rotor blades assembly. In not so technical terms, these are the “spinny things” that when attached to the shaft on the electric motor, catch the wind and rotate the shaft. Rotor blades are like little airplane wings. When the wind blows against them, it is deflected and this results in the rotors wanting to move away from the direction of the wind. Since they are attached to the shaft on the motor, they have no alternative than to rotate.

The third element of wind generators is the tail assembly. The tail is the part of the assembly that keeps the rotors pointed directly into the wind. With a properly designed tail, no matter which direction the wind is blowing from, the rotors will always face directly into the wind.

The last of the main building blocks of a wind generator is the tower. Towers come in all shapes and sizes. Some are simple poles while others are elaborately engineered three or four sided aluminum structures. Regardless of what construction techniques are used, the idea of the tower is to get the wind turbine high enough to function efficiently.

The closer to the ground a wind turbine is installed, the more turbulent and gusty the wind will be. Wind gusts that consonantly pound away at the rotor blades reduce the efficiency of the the unit and damage the bearings in the motor assembly. The higher you can get your wind turbine into the air, the smoother and more consistent the wind conditions will be.

How Does a Wind Turbine Work When The Wind Doesn’t Blow Very Hard?

Depending upon the construction of your wind turbine, if the wind isn’t blowing very hard, the rotors may not turn at all. Of course, this means that you won’t be getting any electricity from the device. To cope with the varying wind speeds in the different parts of the world, wind turbine rotors can be constructed or “tuned” for the average wind speed conditions of the area.

If you live in an area that averages very low wind speeds, you would probably want to install a set of rotor blades that are designed to start spinning in low wind conditions. Conversely, if you live in an area where the wind speeds are usually quite high, you should probably use rotors that don’t start spinning at lower wind speeds. These types of rotors are designed to spin very fast without coming apart and make use of the higher wind speeds.

Dealing with the different wind speeds is a challenge that everyone faces when they are designing their ideal wind powered generator. In some cases, elaborate braking systems are in place to prevent the rotor blades from flying apart under really strong winds. In other cases, high tech rotors are used that are actually capable of changing their pitch (angle in relationship to the direction of the wind) to adjust and accommodate a variety of changing wind speeds.

Now, the next time someone asks you the question; how does wind power work, they’ll think you’re a genius because you’ll be able to tell them all about it. Of course I wouldn’t mind if you referred them to my article but if you must keep them thinking that you’re some kind of renewable energy Einstein, I’ll understand.

One Response to “How Wind Turbines Work To Generate Electricity”

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  1. Garry Moore says:

    Hi to all’ers. This is my first post and thought i would say hi.

    Speak soon!

    Garry Moore

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