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Wind Turbines

Wind Turbines are used to convert wind power to electricity. They are not to be confused with windmills, which use wind power to create mechanical energy and are used to turn mills and other devices.

Many different styles of wind turbines have been used over the years. Turbines can be either a horizontal or vertical axis. Horizontal axis models with three blades is the prevailing model. It is the style used throughout the wind power industry and is considered to be the most efficient and cost effective design.

A commercial wind turbine is composed of several parts, with each serving a specific function as illustrated below:

Rotor & blades - Used for channeling the wind (kinetic energy) and turning it into mechanical energy.

Low speed shaft - The shaft which is directly connected to the rotor and blade assembly, moving at the same rotational speed as the rotor and blades.

Gear box - Converts the rotational speed of the low speed shaft, rotor and blades to a higher speed which is more suited for generating electrical power.

Generator - Typically a DC motor which converts the mechanical energy into electrical energy.

Controller - For monitoring electrical current flow and wind speed and wind direction. Controls the brake and yaw systems for slowing down the rotation of the rotor at high speeds and turning the tower toward the wind.  

Anemometer - Measures the wind speed.

Wind Vane - For determining the wind direction

Nacelle - Covers and protects the internal components.

High speed shaft - The shaft connected to the generator, which runs at a higher speed due to the gear box system.

Brake - Slows down the wind turbine at excessive wind speeds.

Yaw drive & motor - For turning the rotor and blade assembly in the direction facing the wind. 

Tower - Increases the height of the rotor and blades so that higher wind speeds can be captured.


12 Volt Wind Turbine

Commercial wind turbines are usually more complex than residential models. Residential models usually lack the yaw drive and yaw motor, relying instead on the wind vane to catch the wind and turn the rotor and blades. 

Residential wind turbines might also lack a gear box because the rotor and blade already move at a high enough speed to generate good power. Anemometers aren't typically used and braking systems are less common. Furling is sometimes used to protect the turbine from high wind speeds. 

Wind turbines can be a good supplement to any renewable energy system because, unlike solar panels, they can capture energy at night and during cloudy & stormy days. 

Be sure to check out our wind turbine buying guide before you begin shopping for wind turbines. For the homeowner that wants to save the most money, it is also possible to build your own wind turbine with very little technical knowledge needed. See our review of DIY (do it yourself) guides for more details.

Coming soon: Sign up for our free six part mini-course on how to properly plan for adding solar and wind energy to your home.

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