What is Wind Power?

The wind is caused by huge convection currents in the Earth’s atmosphere, driven by heat energy from the Sun. This means that as long as the sun shines, there will be wind.

How do winds form?

It can be explained in simple terms by the daily wind cycle.

The earth’s surface has both land and water. When the sun comes up, the air over the land heats up quicker than that over water. The heated air is lighter, and it rises. The cooler air is denser, and it falls and replaced the air over the land. In the night, the reverse happens. The air over the water is warmer and rises and is replaced by cooler air from land.

The moving air (wind) has huge amounts of kinetic energy, and this can be transferred into electrical energy using wind turbines. The wind turns the blades, which spin a shaft, which connects to a generator and makes electricity. The electricity is sent through transmission and distribution lines to a substation, then on to homes, businesses and schools.

Wind turbines cannot work if there is no wind, or if the wind speed is so high, it would damage them.

Wind turbines are usually located on high hills and mountain ridges to take advantage of the prevailing winds.

Just like a windmill, wind energy turbines have been around for over 1000 years. From old Holland to farms in the United States, windmills have been used for pumping water or grinding grain. 

Did you know…

  • The largest wind turbine in the world, located in Hawaii, stands 20 stories tall and has blades the length of a football field.
  • An average wind speed of 14 miles per hour is needed to convert wind energy into electricity.
  • One wind turbine can produce enough electricity to power up to 300 homes.
  • The first power-generating turbine was constructed in Ohio during the late 1800s and was used to charge batteries. Wind energy is the fastest-growing segment of all renewable energy sources.

In 2013, about, 7.9% (28.4 TWh) of electricity generated in the UK, for example, came from wind turbines. That amount is enough to power a 6.8million homes. The cost of installing wind energy technology is known upfront, so future prices will be more stable than energy from coal or gas because those are imported, and the prices change very often.

— Source: The impact of wind energy on UK energy dependence and resilience, 15 January 2015, Cambridge Econometrics.