Wind Power: A Primer

by The Burns & McDonnell Team on July 11, 2011

wind power: a primerMore and more often, energy companies offer their consumers the opportunity to get their electricity from wind farms. Many people choose this option, since it’s slightly less expensive than the gas alternative. It’s also a conscious choice they can make to be more eco friendly in their day-to-day lives. But how much do we, as consumers, know about wind power? Many people understand the general concept of wind energy, but they don’t know the entire process that goes into harnessing the energy produced by wind.

The kinetic energy of wind is captured.

When you pass a wind farm, the first thing you notice is giant windmills dotting the landscape. These windmills are frequently referred to as wind turbines since their method of collecting the energy produced by wind is similar to the way hydroelectric turbines harness the power of water. The wind farm is a collective of these turbines that have been strategically placed on the land to maximize the amount of wind energy each turbine will collect.

Wind turbines turn the kinetic energy into mechanical power.

The basic way a wind turbine works is rather simple. The giant propeller-like blades “catch” the wind and the power in the wind moves the blades, which, in turn, moves the shaft inside the base, which is connected to a generator. Essentially, the wind turbine works like a fan, but in the opposite direction. Instead of giving off wind, it’s collecting it.

In order for a wind farm to collect enough kinetic energy to properly power generators, the winds in the area must reach a minimum of 10 mph on a regular basis. Because of this requirement, conditions where many wind farms are built can be challenging.The contractor charged with building the wind farm is tasked with working within the constraints of nature or changing it when needed.

The mechanical power is converted into electricity.

Once the wind farm is built and the rotor blades are turning, the generators attached to each turbine begin creating electricity that can be used to power homes or businesses. But how does the shaft’s movement create energy in the generator? Through the process of electromagneticinduction. Put very simply, the shaft of the turbine contains magnets and the rotation of these magnets against wire coils (the conductor) creates voltage, which, of course, is type of energy we need to power our appliances and the lights in our homes and businesses.

 

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  • http://twitter.com/AngelaROrr Angela Orr

    Very well written! Great use of subheads and links to make a complex process easy to understand. I’ve always wondered how exactly that worked… Thanks!

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