How wind turbines work

Diagram of wind turbine components
Diagram of wind mill workings.

Source: National Renewable Energy Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy (public domain)

Wind turbines use blades to collect the wind’s kinetic energy. Wind flows over the blades creating lift (similar to the effect on airplane wings), which causes the blades to turn. The blades are connected to a drive shaft that turns an electric generator that produces the electricity.

Electricity generation with wind

In 2015, wind turbines in the United States were the source of nearly 5% of total U.S. electricity generation. Although wind's share of the country's total electricity production is small, it was equal to the electricity use of about 17.5 million U.S. households in 2014.

The amount of electricity generated from wind has grown significantly over the past 15 years. Electricity generation from wind in the United States increased from about 6 billion kilowatthours (kWh) in 2000 to about 191 billion kWh in 2015.

New technologies have decreased the cost of producing electricity from wind, and growth in wind power has been encouraged by government and industry incentives.