Wind Energy
How Do Wind Turbines Work

How Do Wind Turbines Work

How do wind turbines work? Wind turbines appear like propellers from an aircraft spinning around but doing nothing. They serve a crucial function, but. Wind energy is stored and their huge rotors absorb some of that energy and instantly convert it to electric power. Have you ever taken the time to think about what the wind turbines do? Let’s look at it from a different angle!

What Is Wind Energy?

Wind turbines are based by following a basic principle and instead of using electricity to create the wind like a fan, wind turbines make use of wind to create electricity. The wind turns the blades of a propeller around a rotor that rotates a generator, which produces electricity.

Wind is a type of solar renewable energy resulting from the combination of three simultaneous events:

  • The sun has a way of unevenly warming the atmosphere.
  • Surface irregularities on the earth
  • The earth’s rotation.

The patterns of wind flow and speed differ widely throughout in the United States and are modified by the presence of bodies of water, vegetation and variations in the terrain. Humans make use of this wind flow, also known as motion energy for a variety of uses including sailing, flying kites and even for generating electricity.

The wind’s power for many thousands of years. Wind has moved boats across the Nile River, pumped water and milled grains, helped with the production of food and so on. Today the renewable energy and power of the natural air flow known as wind are harnessed at a massive scale to generate electricity. A modern, offshore wind farm produces eight megawatts (MW) of power sufficient to provide power to nearly six houses in a single year. Onshore wind farms produce hundreds of megawatts. This makes wind power one of the most efficient, cost-effective, and easily accessible sources of renewable energy on earth.

Wind energy is one of the largest-scale, lowest-cost green energy option, and is the most significant renewable source for renewable power in the U.S. today. There are more than 60,000 wind turbines that have a total capacities of 105.583 megawatts (MW). This would provide power to greater than 32 million households!

Cumulative Capacity of Wind Power Plants
Source: GlobalData

Apart from being a crucial component of our energy supply. Wind energy solutions aid commercial businesses in meeting the renewable energy goals and requirements to provide reliable, sustainable energy.

Wind turbines converts the energy of wind into electricity by using the aerodynamic force generated by the rotor blades. They function like an aircraft wing or helicopter rotor blade. When the wind moves across the blade, air pressure on the one part of it diminishes. The difference in pressure between both sides causes both drag and lift. The force of lift is more powerful than drag and that makes the rotor spin. The rotor is connected to the generator in either direct (if it’s an direct drive wind turbine) or via an axis and a set of gears (a gearbox) which speed up the rotation. This allows for a more compact generator. The transfer of force from aerodynamics to the an engine’s rotation creates electricity.

Types of Wind Turbines

Big and small wind turbines are divided into two categories determined by the orientation of the rotor. Horizontal-axis as well as vertical-axis turbines.

Horizontal-axis turbines

Wind

Are the most popular type of wind turbines in use today. This kind of wind turbine is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of wind power, and has blades that resemble the propeller of an aircraft. They typically have three blades. The higher the turbine’s height and longer the blade, the higher the amount of electricity produced.

Vertical-axis turbines

Wind

Appear similar to an eggbeater rather than an propeller of an aircraft. The turbine’s blades are connected at the top and the bottom of vertical rotors. Because they don’t work the same way as those with horizontal axes they aren’t as common in the present.

Offshore wind farms are huge bodies of water such as lakes and oceans. They are funded by the U.S. Department of Energy is currently financing projects to enable offshore wind development within U.S. waters.

What are the most important components of wind turbines?

  • Turbines

While we often talk about “wind turbines” they are just one component of the machines.

  • Gearbox

In the case of most (but but not always) turbines, a second important element is a gearbox. The gears transform the slow motion of the blades’ spinning to a faster speed, turning the drive shaft fast enough to supply electricity to the generator.

  • Generators

Generators are an important component of all wind turbines. You could think of it something akin to an enormous, enlarged variant of the motor that is on the bicycle. If you are riding on a bicycle, the motor connected to the back wheel turns around, generating enough energy that a lamp will light up.

The same process occurs in the wind turbine, but that the “dynamo” generators are powered by the turbine’s rotor’s blades instead of a bicycle’s wheel. The “lamp” will be the source of light at the end of a road, miles away from where someone lives. In actuality wind turbines employ various types of generators that don’t look similar to dynamos in any way.

How do wind turbines work?

Wind turbines work
wind turbines work
  • Wind direction

The wind (moving air that is containing the energy of kinetic energy) can be seen blowing towards the turbine’s blades on the rotor.

  • Blades

The rotors rotate and capture some of the energy of the wind and then turning the drive shaft centrally that is supporting them. While the edges of the blades are very swift however, their main axle (drive shaft) the rotors are attached to turns rather slow.

  • Rotor

In the majority of contemporary turbines, blades of the rotor can rotate on the hub towards the front, so that they are in contact with the wind on the ideal angles (or “pitch”) to maximize taking advantage of energy. This is referred to as”pitch control.

On large wind turbine, tiny electrical motors or hydraulic rams move the blades in a circular motion under strict electronic control. On smaller turbines pitch control is typically entirely mechanical. However, many turbines come with fixed rotors, and have no pitch control.

  • Gear Box

Within the nacelle (the principal structure of the wind turbine, which is on the top of the tower in front of the blades) The gearbox transforms the slow-speed rotation that occurs on the shaft for drive (perhaps sixteen revolutions in a minute, or rpm) to high-speed (perhaps 1600 rpm) rotation that is fast enough to ensure that the generator is driven efficiently.

  • Generator

Its generator is located directly behind the gearbox the kinetic energy generated by the spinning drive shaft and transforms it into electricity. Operating at its maximum capacity typically, a 2MW wind turbine generator can produce 2 million watts at around 700 volts.

  • Anemometer

Anemometers (automatic speed measurement gadgets) along with wind vanes that are located on the underside of the nacelle offer measurement of the speed of the wind and direction.

  • Yaw motor

With this method, complete top of the engine (the nacelle and rotors) can be rotated using an yaw motor that is mounted between the nacelle and tower, so that it is facing directly towards the wind, and thus capturing the highest amounts of energy.

  • Brakes

If the wind is too strong or turbulent brakes are put in place in order to prevent the rotors spinning (for reason of safety). The brakes can also be applied in the course of regular maintenance.

Next,

The electricity generated by the generator is carried through a cable which runs into the interior of the tower of turbine.

An up-grade transformer converts electricity to approximately 50 times the voltage, allowing it to be effectively transmitted to the grid (or to nearby structures as well as communities). If electricity is flowing into the grid, it’s transformed to a much greater power level (130,000 volts or higher) via a nearby substation which is used to power many turbines.

Homeowners enjoy clean and green energy. The turbine has not produced any greenhouse gas emissions or polluting while it was operating.

Wind continues to blow over it, however at a lower energy and speed (for reasons to be explained below) and more turbulent (since that turbine is disrupting the flow).

How do turbines maximize energy harvesting?

If you’ve ever stood under an enormous wind turbine, you’ll be aware that they’re enormous and are positioned on towers that are incredibly tall. The bigger the rotor’s blades, the greater energy they will extract by the breeze. The massive blades (typically 70m or the equivalent of 230 feet in diameter which is around 30 times the size of an Eagle) increase the force of wind as an axle axle and wheel so a mild breeze can cause the blades to turn.

Yet, wind turbines are idle for about 14 % of the time and the majority of the time they do not produce the most power. This isn’t a disadvantage however, but rather an inherent characteristic of their design that permits them to operate effectively in the ever-changing wind. Consider it as this.

Cars don’t move at high speed constantly The engines and gearboxes power the wheels as fast or slow as is needed to keep up with the speed of traffic. Wind turbines are like this as cars: they’re engineered to function effectively at different speeds. Alternatively, a wind farm or a single wind turbine can generate electricity that is used privately by an individual or small set of homes or businesses.

A typical wind turbine nacelle measures 85m (280 feet) above the ground. That’s about 50 tall adults sitting on the shoulders of one another! There’s a valid reason for this. If you’ve ever been on a hill that’s highest point in the entire area and you’ve noticed that wind speeds up when it’s free of trees, buildings and hills, as well as other obstacles at ground level.

Therefore, if you place the blades of a turbine’s rotor high on the horizon, they will capture much more energy from the wind than they do lower down. (If you place the rotor of a wind turbine two times as high the turbine will typically produce approximately a third of the power.) This is the reason why wind turbines are made for.

Energy harvesting
How do turbines maximize energy harvesting

Because the blades on wind turbines are turning and generating energy, they contain kinetic energy that is what they “steal” away from wind. This is a fundamental rule of the science of physics (known in the field of conservation of energy) that you cannot create energy from nothing. Therefore, the wind has to slow down a bit when it is passing by the turbine. It’s not a major issue since there’s always additional wind chasing after! This can be a problem when you plan to construct an wind farm. Unless you’re in an extremely high-wind area, you’ll need ensure that each turbine is at a reasonable distance from the other ones close to it so that it doesn’t get directly affected by the wind.

How much electricity does the Turbine Produce?

It depends. The size of the turbine as well as the speed at which the wind moves through the rotor blades decide how much electricity generated.

Scientific Diagram
How Much Electricity Does The Turbine Produce

In the past decade the wind turbines have gotten higher, which allows for larger blades as well as the capability to make use of more wind energy sources at higher levels.

To put things into perspective For a better understanding: A wind generator with approximately 1 megawatt of power could provide clean energy to around 300 homes per year. Wind turbines on onshore wind farms usually produce between 1 and 5 megawatts. The speed of wind must be nine miles an hour or greater for the majority of utility-sized wind turbines to generate electric power.

Every type of wind turbine has the capacity to produce maximum power with a variety of wind speeds, usually between 30 and 50 miles an hour. But, if the wind is blowing slower it will decrease production in a rapid manner instead of stopping completely. As an example the wind energy produced is reduced by an amount of eight when the wind speed drops by half.

But what happens if there’s no wind?

Many people are concerned that, because winds are extremely variable it could cause us to go without power and end up in the midst of a “blackout” (a massive power cut) when we depend on it too heavily.

The real-world reality of wind is different. “Variable” is not a synonym for unstable or unreliable. In any location the power source is a complicated grid (network) comprised of complexly linked power generation units (ranging from massive power plants to tiny turbines for wind).

Utility companies are adept at balancing power generated from numerous locations with a variety of different methods to meet demand (the total power consumption) in a manner that fluctuates in time from one hour and from day to day. The power generated by any turbine is subject to fluctuation when the wind increases and falls, however the power generated by a multitude of turbines spread across the entire country, is more consistent and predictable.

In a place like the UK there is almost always windy in one area. According to Graham Sinden of Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute has shown that the effects of low wind speeds are felt by over half of the nation but only 10% of the time.

For 60% times, 20% of UK is affected by low winds; and for only an hour per period of time is 90% of the UK being affected by low winds (Sinden 2007 figure 7.). Also having a lot of wind turbines scattered throughout locations ensures a constant supply of wind power practically all the time.

Should You Consider Wind Energy Solutions?

Wind power generation remains among the smallest carbon footprints of any energy source. It plays an essential role in the future of our nation’s energy supply, supporting our world’s energy transition and the increasing demand for sustainable energy resources.

Wind is also one of the best methods for corporations, universities, cities, utilities and other organizations to quickly shift to emissions-free energy at scale. One virtual power purchase agreement (VPPA) can secure tens to hundreds of megawatts of net zero electricity for 10 to 25 years. Most agreements also tick the box for additionality, meaning net-new clean energy sourcing displacing potentially older, higher-emitting energy sources.

Which is the best location for a wind energy project?

Here are six key considerations when considering wind energy projects.

  • Wind availability and preferred locations
  • Wind energy technologies office
  • Environmental impact
  • Renewable energy generation requires community input and local needs
  • Favorable policies at both the federal and state levels
  • Land availability
  • Connectivity to the power grid

Permits must be obtained before any wind power installation can be started, just like commercial solar PV projects. This crucial step will determine whether the project is financially feasible and has a low-risk profile. The goal is to have commercial-scale wind farms supplying electrons to the grid for many decades. It is important to ensure that the builder and project are financially sound. This will ensure that they succeed for many generations.


In summary

Pros
  • Very low carbon dioxide emissions (effectively, zero once constructed).
  • There is no water or air pollution.
  • Drilling and mining have no environmental impact.
  • No fuel to pay for–ever!
  • Wind is completely sustainable–unlike fossil energy, it will never run out.
  • Turbines can be used anywhere there is wind, unlike fossil fuel deposits which are only found in certain areas.
  • Wind energy operating costs can be predicted years ahead of fossil-fueled power.
  • Wind energy prices and political volatility in oil and gas supplies from other nations can be avoided.
  • As fossil fuel prices rise, wind technology matures, the prices of wind energy will be more competitive.
  • Construction, operation, or manufacture of turbines are all new jobs
Cons
  • High upfront cost (just like large fossil-fueled or nuclear-powered plants).
  • Wind energy requires economic subsidies to be viable. However, other forms of power are also subsidised economically because they don’t have to pay the environmental and social costs.
  • The additional cost and complexity involved in balancing variable winds power with other forms is not included.
  • Although the upgrade of the transmission and power lines may incur additional costs, the system is often in the best interests.
  • Variable output is a problem, but it can be reduced by wind farms being located in different regions and (in Europe) using interconnectors to connect neighboring countries.
  • Large land takes–though at most 95 percent of wind farms land can still be used as farming land, and offshore turbines are possible to be built at sea.
  • The only way to supply 100% of a country’s electricity all year is with fossil fuels, nuclear and hydroelectric power.
  • People who work in drilling and mining are losing their jobs.

Read More…

Wind vs Solar

FAQs:

How Does A Wind Turbine Works Short Answer?

Turbines capture the wind energy using their propeller-like blades. They act like an airplane wings. As the wind blows, a low-pressure pocket forms on one side. This pulls the blade towards it, making the rotor turn

What Are A Wind Farms?

A wind farm, or wind park, is a group or combination of wind turbines located in the same place that produces electrical energy.

Why Are Wind Turbines Usually White Or Pale Grey?

Wind turbines are usually white or very pale gray. This is to keep them as unobtrusive visually as possible. It is being discussed whether they should be painted in other colors, especially green, to better blend with their surroundings.

How Strong Does The Wind Need To Be For A Wind Turbines Work?

Turbines can only be powered when the wind speed between 8 to 55 miles per hour (mph), 2. The wind turbine blades will resume normal operation once the anemometer has measured speeds below or equal to the turbine’s cutout speed.

Where Are Wind Farms Located?

Wind farms are often located at the top of a mountain or in an otherwise windy area to benefit from natural winds

Are Wind Farms Bad For Birds?

Wind energy is good for birds, but wind power plants can cause harm to birds by direct collisions with turbines or other structures (including power lines).

Who Does Wind Turbine Maintenance?

A technician who works with wind turbines is also called a windtech. They install, maintain, repair, inspect, maintain, operate, and test them. They can diagnose and repair any problem that might cause the turbine’s unexpected shutdown. A windtech’s average annual salary is $54,160


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Thomas Harder

Is an environmental and renewable energy specialist with over 10 years of expertise within the renewable and solar industry. With over a decade of experience in various organizations within the field He runs Mysolarperks as a passion-driven project that promotes sustainable renewable energy ideas and products.
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