How Wind Turbines Produce Energy

David Lawrence served as executive vice president of exploration and commercial at Shell from 2009 through 2013. In that capacity, David Lawrence oversaw many of the company’s most valuable projects, including Americas LNG operations and acquisitions, gas monetization efforts, new business development and Shell’s wind business, including eight wind farms in the United States.

From the outside, a wind turbine’s operation seems nebulous. Blades attached to a rotor twist and turn in the wind, sending the wind’s energy to a generator connected to the main shaft that creates electricity. But how, exactly, does that deceptively simple process result in usable energy?

Think of a wind turbine as the opposite of a fan. A fan draws on electricity to create wind. Conversely, a wind turbine takes in wind, which breaks down to kinetic energy. Rather than blades turning to create wind, the presence of wind turns a turbine’s blades. The subsequent rotation causes a shaft to spin. The shaft is connected to a generator. As the generator receives motion, the mechanical process of the generator creates electricity.

Different types of wind turbines perform the same job in different ways. Conventional, or horizontal-axis wind turbines resemble gigantic fans with three blades. Newer, vertical-axis turbines look like egg beaters. Horizontal-axis turbines face into the wind, while vertical-axis turbines need not face the wind.


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