Wind energy is one of the renewable energies that we will rely on more and more as we shift away from fossil fuels. But how does wind energy actually work? How can massive wind turbines turn a pleasant breeze into energy?
In its simplest form, wind hits the blades of a windmill and makes them spin around a central rotor, thus spinning the rotor and transforming the wind’s kinetic energy into rotational energy. Traditional windmills would use this rotational energy to pump water or grind wheat, but in modern windmills, the spinning blades turn a generator that creates electricity. This electricity can be used for our everyday needs and will be critical in our transition to green energy.
There are four ways wind turbines can generate more energy. Firstly, the size of the blades on a wind turbine can affect energy production. The larger the surface area of the blade, the more material the wind has to push against, so the blades can spin faster, which creates more energy. Next, the orientation of the blades also plays a huge part. If a windmill is facing the wind it can generate a lot more energy than if it isn’t (many modern windmills do have the ability to turn to face the wind). There are some turbines that can operate with the wind coming from any direction, but they are much less efficient. Also, windmills are getting taller and taller because wind speeds are faster further above the ground. Another way for winds to generate lots of energy is to have the blades be the same shape as airplane wings instead of flat blades, allowing the blades to spin faster. Finally, if there is more wind more energy can be generated (more wind can either be wind for longer periods of time, or faster wind, as they turn the generator longer or faster respectively).