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How Do Wind Turbines Work

Wind turbines are starting to become one of the best prospects for sources of clans and renewable energy. The principle is all really very simple; wind turbines harness the kinetic energy of the wind and turn it into electrical energy. Many civilizations from various areas of the globe, even dating back to as far as 200 B.C., have reported the use of wind turbines. But only then in the 1880′s was it actually used to harness electrical energy from the wind.

Wind turbine models largely depend on the topography of the area and the direction of the wind passing through the site. There are three basic parts of a wind turbine. First is the support component, which includes the post that holds the turbine blades high above the air. Second is the turbine blades, which function as barriers to the wind. Then there is the generator component which is made up of the electrical generator, the controls and the gearbox- a machine responsible for converting low speed rotation to high speed rotation, creating mechanical energy sufficient enough to harness electricity.

Today, there are generally two models of wind turbines, the horizontal axis and the vertical axis. The horizontal axis wind turbines have the rotor shaft and the electrical generator right at the top of the turbine itself. All of these, including the turbine blades must be pointed directly towards the wind to harness its energy. They are usually three bladed and can be moved around towards any wind direction. Most of the modern turbines we see today are the horizontal axis type.

The next wind turbine model is the vertical axis wind turbine. This kind of wind turbine is actually a newer model than the former and is less common. Vertical axis turbines have its main rotor shaft right below the turbine blades. And because of this, the blades are not pointed out towards the wind in order for the energy to be harvested. This is a great advantage in areas where wind direction may be very variable. The rotor shaft can simply be placed nearer the ground which makes it very accessible for maintenance and repair. But the down side to this is that rotational speed may be slow and the energy harvest is lower compared to the first model.

So how does it all work, exactly? Although the entire mechanism is very complex, here is a basic take of how mechanical energy from the wind is converted into electricity. First, the force of the wind turns the turbine blades and the shaft to a rotational motion. As the shaft moves, it also turns several other gears which will eventually lead to electrical wires moving in and out of a magnet. This action generates energy which can now be stored in a battery, in the form of electricity.

The energy harvested from wind turbines is largely dependent on the velocity of the wind. The slower the wind moves, the lesser amount of energy is harvested. Aside from that, current wind turbine designs are not able to harness the whole kinetic energy from the wind. Generally, most of the modern wind turbines can only extract 45% of the energy from the wind.

One of the key points to creating effective and productive wind mills is looking for that specific location that can give you enough wind power to actually produce electricity. One of the most reliable guides to wind turbine site selection is a meteorological data that spans over several years. Aside from that, on-site terrain details such as vegetation and signs of strong wind erosion can also be good supporting data. What you need to keep in mind is never to rely solely in a single data source but to look for other supporting factors that will indicate good and strong wind flow in the area. A highly recommended site would be one that has wide clearings and flat terrains that allow winds to flow at a stable direction and at its maximum speed. Given the huge amounts of investment involved in wind turbine constructions, finding the right site is one of the most important steps to efficiently harnessing potential energy form the wind.

The good thing about this kind of energy source is that they are renewable. Winds are naturally generated in the atmosphere by various physical and chemical processes and they are always abundant, especially in particular areas of the globe. Compared to the usual fossil fuel based electricity, they do not give out harmful carbon emissions that can harm the planet.