Wind power is the fastest growing renewable energy platform in the world. Ah, but just how do wind turbines work. Well, you have to understand the key components.
At its core, a wind turbine combines the energy in wind into usable electricity. Wind, of course, is a form of solar energy. As the sun heats surfaces at different rates, hot air rises and cooler air rushes in to fill the gap. This rushing process is wind. A turbine located in the appropriate area catches this wind.
As you may imagine, the first key component of the wind turbine is the blade. In modern horizontal turbines, there are usually three blades. The blades are often made of a plastic and fiberglass composite, but some are still wood. The blades are concave, but off center to catch the wind and spin efficiently.
The blades are connected to a double rotor assembly. The blade rotor is connected to the blades and spins as they catch wind. The blade rotor is then connected to a magnet rotor through a pulley assembly on larger turbines or directly on smaller ones for homes.
The magnet rotor does not turn anything. Instead, it spins around a magnetic alternator. This creates a magnetic field. As it passes over the wires of the alternator, an electrical charge is created. The electrical charge is then fed to a controller that converts the untamed electricity to usable DC power.
To maximize energy production, the turbine platform is fairly sophisticated. The turbine is not stationary at the top of the supporting pole. Instead, it sits on a bearing that allows the turbine to rotate towards the direction of the wind. This obviously makes it much more efficient.
To make sure the rotation is done correctly, all horizontal turbines come with a tail. Often called a boom or vane, the tail looks like something you would find on a model airplane. It is a pole out the rear of the turbine. At the end is a flat, vertical surface. This surface automatically turns towards the wind, which causes the blades on the other end of the turbine to do so also.
To the surprise of many, wind turbines are also built with a breaking system. Why brakes? Well, you may need to work on the turbine or turn it off if very high winds are expected. The brakes are often electric in nature. The essentially break the current being fed from the turbine. They are not a way of stopping the blades from turning.
Wind power is growing in popularity and is providing to be a valuable energy source. This is particularly true for rural or underdeveloped areas. The next time you see a wind turbine, you can tell the people with you exactly how it works.