We have been harnessing the wind’s energy for hundreds of years. From old Holland to farms in the United States, windmills have been used for pumping water or grinding grain. Today, the windmill’s modern equivalent—a wind turbine—can use the wind’s energy to generate electricity.
Wind turbines, like windmills, are mounted on a tower to capture the most energy. At around 30 meters or more aboveground, they can take advantage of the faster and less turbulent wind. Turbines catch the wind’s energy with their propeller-like blades. Usually, two or three blades are mounted on a shaft to form a rotor.

A blade acts much like an airplane wing. When the wind blows, a pocket of low-pressure air forms on the downwind side of the blade. The low-pressure air pocket then pulls the blade toward it, causing the rotor to turn. This is called lift. The force of the lift is actually much stronger than the wind’s force against the front side of the blade, which is called drag. The combination of lift and drag causes the rotor to spin like a propeller, and the turning shaft spins a generator to make electricity.


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