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Wind Power

Source: U.S. Department of Energy

 

How Wind Turbines Work
Wind turbines operate on a simple principle. The energy in the wind turns two or three propeller-like blades around a rotor. The rotor is connected to the main shaft, which spins a generator.

The blades act much like airplane wings. 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 is what causes the rotor to spin.

Wind turbines are mounted on a tower to capture the most energy. At 100 feet (30 meters) or more above ground, they can take advantage of faster and less turbulent wind.

How Wind Power is Used
Wind turbines can be used to produce electricity for a single home or building, or they can be connected to an electricity grid for more widespread electricity distribution. They can even be combined with other renewable energy technologies.

Small turbines (below 50 kilowatts) can be used to pump water or to power individual homes, farms, and ranches. Small turbines are especially useful in remote areas. Our Making Your Own Clean Electricity section provides more information on issues involved with producing electricity, and provides tools to evaluate small wind and other renewable technologies for your home/small business.

To meet the electricity needs of a power company, a number of large wind turbines (50 kilowatts to one or two megawatts) can be built close together to form a wind plant. Several power providers today use wind plants to supply power to their customers. Our Buying Clean Electricity section provides information on buying electricity generated from wind and other renewable resources in your state.

Where Wind Power is Used
Wind energy can be produced anywhere in the world where the wind blows with a strong and consistent force. Windier locations produce more energy, which lowers the cost of producing electricity.

Moderate to excellent wind resources are found in most regions of the United States. However, the majority of the useable wind resources in the United States are found in the western Plains states.

Map ThumbnailAverage Annual Wind Power—This map shows the distribution of wind resources across the United States.

More Information on Wind Power
For a comprehensive list of links to wind energy Web sites, divided by topic, visit the Wind Energy portal on the Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Web site.

 

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