How does wind energy work?

An in-depth look at how wind turbines generate electricity



Wind power is one of the cleanest, most sustainable ways of generating energy - but how does wind power work? We’ve all seen the large white wind turbines dotting certain areas of the countryside or sitting proudly off the coastline, but few of us are really clued up on how they generate the power, or even what is a wind turbine? So, we thought we’d take an in-depth look.

How Do Wind Turbines Work?

Wind Turbines are a tool for generating energy through the use of natural, renewable resources. Often seen as large white, or pale grey, poles with blades at the top, a bit like skinny windmills, you can also get smaller ones for individual use to power a specific item.

Wind can be used to generate electricity through harnessing its kinetic energy. This means that the motion of the turning blades on the wind turbine - which is created as wind passes over them - creates an energy that can then be converted into electricity.

Wind turbines typically have two or three propeller-like blades that are designed to spin when wind hits them. These blades are attached to a rotor that moves as the blades do, which in turn moves the main shaft that it is connected to. This shaft runs into a box by the side of the turbine called a nacelle.

This nacelle then converts that energy into electricity, which can then either be put through a converter to used in homes and businesses via the National Grid or it can alternatively be used by private properties and businesses for their own means.

A collection of these turbines together are often referred to as wind farms and these are usually found in places where there is a lot of wind so that they’re potential for generating electricity is maximised.

While put into places where they make the most of the wind, the placement of these windfarms should also take into consideration where they will be the least obtrusive (hence why they are painted white or pale grey) and where they will disrupt humans and the natural world as little as possible. Wind farms found on land are called ‘onshore’ windfarms and those out to sea are called ‘offshore’.

What Are the Advantages of Wind Energy?

Wind energy has a great many advantages and can be a clean and efficient way of generating power. So here we look at a few of its positive aspects.

It’s renewable: Wind isn’t a limited resource. It doesn’t disappear once it’s been used up and can be used repeatedly without fear of its eventual end. Naturally occurring, it is actually a form of solar energy due to it being generated by a combination of the sun heating the Earth’s atmosphere, the rotation of the Earth, and its irregular surface. In short, as long as the sun shines and the Earth spins, we’ll always have wind power, making it one of the most sustainable sources of energy around.

It’s a clean energy: The production of wind energy doesn’t cause pollution, unlike fossil fuels and other traditional energy sources. Wind turbines react to the wind without producing any unwanted by-products, whereas coal and natural gasses can release particulate matter that can cause health issues as well as damage to property.

It can be domestically generated: Thanks to its island setting and positioning between the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea, the UK is actually a pretty windy place. As such, it can generate its own wind energy without having to be reliant on the exports of any other nation, which can help keep energy costs down as well as helping create jobs.

What Are the Disadvantages of Wind Energy?

Like all other energy sources, wind energy isn’t without its pitfalls, but these can often be mitigated. So, what are these disadvantages?

It can affect wildlife: Any man-made structure or building is going to have an impact on the environment around it and the subsequent wildlife that lives within it, and wind turbines are no different. Birds and bats are often the most likely animals to be affected by these turbines as they have been found to fly into the blades. At 100Green we recognise that even the generation of green energy can have a negative impact on the environment. Working with NGOs like EKOenergy, we offer customers the option of our EKO tariff > where the energy is independently certified as coming from a generator with a lower impact on local wildlife.

There are concerns over its placement: While most people understand the value of wind energy, some have concerns over the aesthetic impact of having wind turbines built near them as well as the potential noise generated by the moving blades. Being painted neutral colours, such as white and pale grey, goes some way to making the turbines less obtrusive.

The land needed for windfarms might be suitable for other purposes: To build windfarms you need land, and that land may have other uses too. As such if those uses are more highly valued than electricity generation, windfarms can lose out. Because of this, energy generators have to compete with these alternative uses for the land.

How These Disadvantages Can Be Minimised

At GEUK, we strive to take the meaning of ‘green’ energy further and take great efforts to make sure our energy is truly sustainable. In fact, our EKO tariff > is the only (domestic) tariff in the UK to be independently certified as being truly sustainable, where the energy generated has to meet additional and strict sustainability criteria in order to be used. This means, we only use wind energy generated in locations where the turbines will not affect bird migration paths.

We also have a network of independent generators who sell us energy - this often means they are using their own land to generate wind energy, in many cases using it to subsidise a pre-existing business such as farming. This means that the land has dual use thus maximising its usage as well as the turbines being built by those who specifically want them there.

How 100Green Uses Wind Energy

All of our electricity on all of our tariffs is 100% renewable, producing zero carbon emissions and zero radioactive waste. We don’t carbon offset our energy either because there is no need to. While we recognise how carbon offsetting schemes have helped with raising awareness of the environmental impact of our energy consumption, we prefer to make sure our energy is produced in a truly sustainable manner.

Electricity sold with the EKOenergy eco-label takes this one step further, fulfilling strict environmental criteria, which you can read more about here >, as well as raising funds for new renewable energy projects around the world. Installations that generate electricity on this tariff must be located outside of protected nature areas and outside of important bird areas.

How Many Windfarms Does 100Green Own?

Well, the really simple answer to that question is that we don’t. We don’t actually generate our own energy. Our focus is providing our customers with real customer service and sourcing 100% green energy (yes, even our gas is 100% green > – you currently won’t find anyone else in the UK with 100% green gas tariffs for domestic use)

Instead, we have a network of commercial (and some domestic!) generators across the UK – some of whom we have worked with for a very long time.

To find out more about the energy we produce and how it’s generated, click here to visit Our Energy page.