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 (generates) electricity.
Diagram of wind turbine components
Source: National Renewable Energy Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy (public domain)
Wind electricity generation has increased significantly
Wind electricity generation has grown significantly in the past 30 years. Advances in wind energy technology have decreased the cost of wind electricity generation. Government requirements and financial incentives for renewable energy in the United States and in other countries have contributed to growth in wind power.
Total annual U.S. electricity generation from wind energy increased from about 6 billion kilowatthours (kWh) in 2000 to about 380 billion kWh in 2021. In 2022, wind turbines were the source of about 10.2% of total U.S. utility-scale electricity generation. Utility scale includes facilities with at least one megawatt (1,000 kilowatts) of electricity generation capacity.
Last updated: April 20, 2023, with most recent available annual data at the time of update from the Electric Power Monthly; data are preliminary, February 2023.