HOW A WIND TURBINE WORKS

Wind power involves converting wind energy into electricity by using wind turbines. A wind turbine usually has three propellers-like blades called rotors. The rotor is attached to a tall tower. On average, wind towers in residential settings are about 20m high. The reason why the tower is so tall is that winds are stronger higher from the ground and there’s less of a buffeting effect.

horizontal and vertical axis wind turbine

Vertical and horizontal axis turbines used for residential electricity generation

Wind comes from atmospheric changes: changes in temperature and pressure makes the air move around the surface of the earth. All of which is triggered by the sun. So in a way, wind energy is another form of solar power.

A wind turbine captures the wind, which then produces a renewable energy source. The wind makes the rotor spin; as the rotor spins, the movement of the blades drives a generator that creates energy. The motion of the blades turning is kinetic energy. It is this power that we convert into electricity.

How is electricity made from turbines?

Wind power converts into electricity by magnets moving past stationary coils of wire known as the stator. As the magnets pass the stator, AC electricity production occurs. It is then converted into DC electricity. This can charge batteries which store the electrical energy or can feed into a grid-interactive inverter for feeding power into the electricity grid.

The advantages of wind energy

Wind power is a clean energy source that we can rely on for the long-term future. A wind turbine creates reliable, cost-effective, pollution-free energy. It is affordable, clean and sustainable. One wind turbine can be sufficient to generate energy for a household.

Because wind is a source of energy which is non-polluting and renewable, the turbines create power without using fossil fuels. That is, without producing greenhouse gases or radioactive or toxic waste.

What is the cost of wind energy?

Today, this renewable energy source is one of the most cost-effective options to choose from. In fact, it’s the cheapest of all large-scale alternatives on the market. In 2018 alone, Australia’s wind farms produced approximated 33.5 per cent of the nation’s total clean energy supply, creating a further 71.5 per cent of the country’s electricity. 

Because of this accessibility, the cost of wind energy continues to be a reliable and stable option for Australia to lean on. In a nutshell, an individual turbine costs approximately $7,000 to $20,000 to be installed, depending on the specific type.

Turbine installation

You can install wind turbines on properties, on boats, or caravans.  Whether it is viable depends entirely on the number of wind resources available in your area. The first thing you need to do is to find out the average speed in your area. While using freely available data gives an indication, the most reliable method is a reading taken at your site.

The average wind speed needs to be above 5m/s (18km per hour) to make installing a wind turbine worthwhile. Ideal locations for wind turbines are:

  • in the country,
  • on farms, or
  • on the coast

Basically, anywhere away from built-up areas. The more buildings around the installation, the less wind there is.  Setting up a wind turbine is a big job that takes time. It can be a very cost-effective way of creating power as long as the average wind speed is high enough.

Is wind power right for you as a renewable energy source?

In most suburban residential settings, solar panels are a better choice than wind turbines. Learn more about wind energy vs. solar power or read our guide: Is Wind Power Right For You?