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How Windmills Work
Wind Power Basics ...
Wind power is actually a form of solar energy. Winds are caused by the uneven
heating of the atmosphere by the sun, combined with the irregularities of the
earth's surface, and rotation of the earth.
Wind turbines or windmills convert the kinetic energy in the wind into
mechanical energy, which a generator can convert into electricity.
Basically, a home windmill or wind
turbine works the opposite of a fan.
Instead of using electricity to move
the fan blades to create wind, a wind
turbine uses the wind to move the fan
blades to generate electricity. See,
the wind turns the blades, which spin
a shaft. The shaft is connected to a
generator, which makes electricity.
Click on the wind power diagram to
the left to see wind power in action.
Windmills come in all different shapes and sizes. Large commerical or
utility-scale wind turbines may be mounted hundreds of feet in the air, and
range in size from 100 kilowatts to as large as several megawatts. These are the
type that you typically see as part of a wind farm.
For residential power, small wind turbines, below 100 kilowatts are used. Often,
these are used in conjunction with solar panels, and batteries to provide some
or maybe even all of a family's home electricity.
Our wind energy resources page has many
helpful sources of information on wind
energy. Do your homework and learn
whether or not wind power is a viable option
for your location. Also, we list several places
where you can buy small wind turbines, and
even provide some good resources if you
would like to learn how to build your own.