Skip to content

How Do Wind Turbines Work?

A wind turbine that isn't working.

Have you ever wondered how wind turbines actually work? In this article we aim to explain the process that enables these devices to convert wind energy into useable electricity.

Wind turbines work in essentially the same way as an electric fan, however instead of using electricity to turn a fan which will create a gust, we are using wind energy (the gust) to turn a fan that will create electricity.

The Inside of a Wind Turbine

As you can see above, a wind turbine features a large compartment that the blades are attached to via a rotary device. This rotary device is often connected to a pitch system that is able to point the entire blade system either upwards or downwards in order to be more efficient during different wind patterns. Not only does this provide efficiency, but it also helps protect the turbine during periods of severe gales.

The rotary device is connected to a shaft which will be linked to a gearbox. The gearbox is then connected via a cog system to the generator. When the wind blows, the aerodynamic blades begin to turn, moving the rotary device which will then turn the shaft, resulting in the gearbox coming into operation. When the gearbox starts to operate, the generator will turn and this is essentially how wind turbines work.

All of the above process is carried out in the compartment of the wind turbine shown towards the top of this page. Many wind turbines will also feature a yaw motor that has the capability of moving the turbine blades in any direction.

Visit the U.S Department of Energy for a more detailed look at the inside of a wind turbine.

Where Does The Electricity Go?

Once the generator has started to produce electricity, a series of high voltage cables running down the shaft of the turbine are able to carry the electricity to additional control units based on the ground. These can then convert the electricity to the format required by the local or national grid.