How Is Wind Power Made?

wind-power-made Credit: Håkan Dahlström/CC-BY-2.0

Wind power harnesses the movement of the wind to turn electrical turbines, generating power. Large windmill-like turbines with canted blades catch the wind, rotating around a central axle. This axle connects to the central rotor of an electric turbine. As the turbine spins, the interaction of copper wires and magnets creates an electrical current.

Wind turbines come in two styles, horizontal and vertical. Vertical turbines look like windmills, with a horizontal axle connected to large propeller blades. These turbines must face the wind for maximum efficiency, so the head of the turbine may pivot to allow the structure to cope with unsteady wind conditions. Vertical turbines resemble eggbeater blades, with a vertical axle surrounded by two or more sail-like blades connected at the top and bottom. This design has the advantage of being omnidirectional since winds from any direction may cause the blades to move and spin the axle.

Wind power is most effective in regions that experience sustained winds for long periods, such as the Great Plains. Wind is also often coupled with solar or hydroelectric energy since calm conditions can drastically reduce the amount of electricity generated. As of 2014, some countries have begun placing wind farms on or just off their coasts, taking advantage of the nearly constant winds that blow in from ocean currents.