In my first post, found here: Most Powerful Turbine I discussed a the most powerful wind turbine coming into production with a capacity to produce 80 gigawatts of energy in a year. Now I usually present what I find exciting in the renewable sphere in a TLDR: “too long didn’t read” format, giving you the highlights of new innovations and arming you with enough information to be the well-informed dinner guest. Today I am going to take a step back and provide you an ELI5: “explain it like I’m five” run down of how wind turbines work.
When you read, “wind turbine” what is it you think of? A big fan-looking contraption with three blades huddled within a gaggle of other like structures. To formalize our definition of wind turbines, these are horizontal axis wind turbines which must face the wind or be “upwind” in order to generate power. The next question is, how do we know what direction the wind will be blowing in to install the turbines? We don’t, and the wind turbines can actually rotate towards the direction of the wind in order to capture it from any direction.
The structure of the blades on a wind turbine are curved and resemble those on plane. By utilizing the curved shape, as wind blows past the blade, an area of decreased air pressure forms and then the higher-pressure air will start rotating the blade. The blades are attached to a drive shaft in the center of the turbine, and as the shaft spins, it will rotate gears in a gear box. These gears will, in turn, rotate a secondary section of a drive shaft more quickly. This secondary section is then connected to a generator. Think of this like when you ride a bike, and you have multiple gears and on the lowest gears you’ll be pedaling away while the wheels only slightly rotate. Except this process is in reverse and the wheels spinning slowly are the turbine blades and the quick rotating pedal is the shaft connected to the generator.
Finally, the electric current runs down a wire to a transformer that will convert the electricity produced by the turbine into a more suitable voltage that can then be distributed to homes or feed into the power grid. If you would like to learn more about wind turbines work, please check the links below for additional information. And I would like to leave you with two turbine related facts. One, the main body of the turbine that houses the gear box and generator is called the nacelle. Two, wind that blows at twice the speed has the potential to produce eight times the amount of energy on a given turbine because the energy in wind has a cubed proportion to its speed!
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