Diagram of wind turbine components
Diagram of wind mill workings.

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

How wind turbines work

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, which produces the electricity.

Electricity generation with wind

In 2016, wind turbines in the United States were the source of nearly 6% of total U.S. utility-scale electricity generation.

The amount of electricity generated from wind has grown significantly since 2000. Electricity generation from wind in the United States increased from about 6 billion kilowatthours (kWh) in 2000 to about 226 billion kWh in 2016.

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