How Much Power Does 1 Windmill Produce?

How much power does 1 windmill produce?

Wind energy is one of the fastest growing renewable energy sources in the world. It utilizes wind turbines to harness the kinetic energy in wind and convert it into electricity. The global wind power capacity has been increasing by at least 40% every year, with larger and more efficient wind turbines being developed. This article focuses on answering the key question of how much power a single modern wind turbine can produce.

Wind turbines come in a variety of sizes, but the most common are large horizontal-axis wind turbines that can be up to 140 meters tall. They use rotors with aerodynamic blades that spin as the wind blows and turn an electrical generator to produce electricity. But determining the actual power output of a wind turbine is more complex than knowing just its size and capacity.

Wind Turbine Basics

A wind turbine is a device that converts the wind’s kinetic energy into electrical energy. The key components of a wind turbine include:

The tower, which elevates the turbine to take advantage of faster wind speeds at higher altitudes. Typical tower heights range from 65 to 100 meters (Understanding the Key Parts of a Wind Turbine).

The rotor, which is composed of two or three blades that spin when the wind blows. The rotor diameter, or length of the blades, ranges from 40 to 120 meters on modern horizontal-axis wind turbines (The Anatomy of a Wind Turbine: Key Components and Functions).

The nacelle, which contains the key electrical generating components like the gearbox, generator, controller, etc.

The power capacity of a wind turbine is typically described by the generator capacity, which ranges from 1 to 5 megawatts for most large-scale turbines. This generator capacity determines how much electricity the turbine can feed into the grid under optimal wind speeds.

Wind Turbine Size Variation

Wind turbines come in a wide range of sizes, from small turbines for residential use to massive utility-scale turbines. The most common large-scale wind turbines have power ratings from around 1.5-3.5 megawatts (MW) per turbine, with rotor diameters up to 120 meters across. Many of the largest wind farms use turbines in this power range. For example, the Roscoe Wind Farm in Texas has 627 wind turbines each rated at 1.5-2.3 MW [1].

Utility-scale wind turbines like these have become the dominant type of wind power generation. They range from around 900 kilowatts up to around 5 MW of power generation capacity per turbine. The turbines are enormous in physical size as well. A 1.5 MW turbine can have blades over 60 meters long and sit on top of an 80-100 meter tower. At this massive scale, the turbines can capture more wind energy and convert it to electricity efficiently and cost-effectively.

In contrast, small residential wind turbines are just a few kilowatts up to around 100 kilowatts in power capacity. Their smaller physical size makes them less economical for utility-scale power generation. While they can supplement some home energy needs, their high costs make them impractical for most homeowners [1].

Wind Turbine Power Production

The power output of a wind turbine depends on several key factors:

Wind Speed – The power available in the wind is proportional to the cube of the wind speed. This means if the wind speed doubles, the available power increases by a factor of 8 (23). Most turbines achieve their maximum power output at wind speeds around 25-35 mph.

Swept Area – The larger the blades and swept area, the more power a turbine can extract from the wind. Power is directly proportional to the swept area. Doubling the blade length quadruples the swept area and available power.

Power Coefficient (Cp) – The power coefficient depends on the aerodynamic design and operating point of the turbine. State of the art turbines have a Cp around 0.4-0.5. This means 40-50% of the power in the wind is extracted.

The power output of a wind turbine is calculated using the following equation:[1]

Power = 0.5 * Air Density * Swept Area * Cp * Wind Speed3


  • Air Density = 1.225 kg/m3 (at sea level)
  • Swept Area = π * (Rotor Radius)2
  • Cp = Power Coefficient (typically 0.4-0.5)
  • Wind Speed = speed of wind through swept area (m/s)

This shows that power is directly proportional to the swept area of the rotor blades and cube of the wind speed. The power coefficient relates to the efficiency of the turbine design.

Typical Wind Turbine Power

Utility-scale wind turbines that are used in commercial wind farms generally range in size from 1 to 5 megawatts (MW) in power output capacity. Here are some common examples:

1 MW turbine: This is at the smaller end of utility-scale turbines and can produce around 2.5 million kWh per year, enough to power 240 – 300 homes annually. Most 1 MW turbines have rotors measuring around 65-80 meters. They produce about 4 million kWh of electricity over the lifetime of the turbine. [1]

2 MW turbine: This size turbine can generate around 5 million kWh of electricity per year, enough for 400 to 500 average homes. The rotor diameter is typically 90-100 meters. Over 20 years, a 2 MW turbine produces around 100 million kWh. [2]

3 MW turbine: At this capacity, the turbine can generate approximately 7.5 million kWh annually, enough for 600 – 750 homes. It has a rotor span of around 110-120 meters. Over its lifetime, it can produce 150 million kWh. [3]

5 MW turbine: This is about the largest size onshore utility-scale turbine. It can generate roughly 12.5 million kWh per year, enough to power 1,000 – 1,250 homes. The rotor diameter is up to 130 meters across. In 20 years, it produces 250 million kWh. [4]

Capacity Factor

The capacity factor of a wind turbine measures its actual productivity over a period of time compared to its potential maximum productivity if it operated at full capacity consistently. According to the Center for Sustainable Systems, the average capacity factor for wind turbines in the U.S. is around 35-45%. This is largely due to the intermittent nature of wind.

Wind speeds fluctuate over time and seasonally. When the wind is blowing strongly, the turbine will operate near its full capacity and generate more electricity. During periods of low wind speeds, the turbine generates less power. These variations mean that over the course of a year, the average output of a wind turbine is around 35-45% of its maximum capacity if it operated at its peak output all the time.

The capacity factor reflects these realities of wind variability. More consistent wind resources allow for higher capacity factors. Offshore wind turbines often reach capacity factors of 40-50% due to stronger and steadier wind over water. In contrast, onshore wind turbines in less windy regions may have capacity factors closer to 20-30%. But overall, a typical capacity factor range for wind turbines in the U.S. is 35-45%.

Yearly Energy Production

The yearly energy production of a wind turbine depends on its power rating, the number of hours in a year, and its capacity factor. The capacity factor is the percentage of actual power produced compared to the maximum possible power if the turbine operated at full capacity all the time. Capacity factors for wind turbines typically range from 25-45%.

For example, a 2 MW wind turbine with a 35% capacity factor would produce:

2,000 kW x 8,760 hours per year x 0.35 = 6,132,000 kWh per year

So that 2 MW turbine would produce around 6.1 million kWh of electricity per year. Larger turbines with higher capacity factors can produce significantly more. An offshore 5 MW turbine with a 45% capacity factor could produce:

5,000 kW x 8,760 hours per year x 0.45 = 19,710,000 kWh per year

That’s enough to power around 1,800 average homes! Proper siting and technology improvements have increased capacity factors for modern wind turbines, leading to greater total energy production.


Economic Considerations

The upfront cost of installing a wind turbine is significant, but the energy generated can payback the investment over time. According to Today’s Homeowner, a typical 10 kW wind turbine costs around $65,000 installed. However, costs can vary greatly depending on the size, location, permitting and grid connections.

Over the lifetime of a turbine, the energy generated will offset electricity that would have been purchased from the utility. The payback period depends on factors like energy pricing, wind resource, operations and maintenance costs. Most analyses estimate the payback period to be around 10 years or less. After that, the turbine generates nearly free electricity.

For example, the U.S. Department of Energy calculates that a 10 kW turbine could generate around 30,000 kWh per year, worth over $3,500 in energy savings annually at an average electricity rate of $0.12/kWh. While the payback period can be over 10 years, the lifetime of a turbine is 20-25 years. So the majority of a turbine’s lifespan generates net positive economic returns.

Environmental Benefits

Wind energy provides substantial environmental benefits compared to fossil fuel-based energy sources. As a renewable energy source, wind does not require mining or drilling for fuel sources, and does not generate greenhouse gas emissions or toxic pollutants. According to a 2017 study, generating electricity from wind power emits between 0.02 and 0.04 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour, while fossil fuel sources like coal and natural gas emit nearly 1 pound per kilowatt-hour. Replacing fossil fuels with wind energy can significantly reduce air pollution and carbon emissions.

In addition to climate change benefits, wind power improves air quality by reducing smog-forming pollutants like nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide. A 2011 analysis found the air quality benefits of wind energy in the Mid-Atlantic region were valued at over $200 per megawatt-hour. As more regions shift their energy mix toward renewables like wind, they can dramatically cut down on dangerous air pollution.

Wind power also supports energy independence by relying on a renewable domestic resource rather than imported fossil fuels. Increasing wind generation allows countries to be less reliant on foreign oil and gas imports. The Department of Energy found that generating 20% of U.S. electricity from wind by 2030 could reduce natural gas use by 11% and save consumers billions in energy costs. Utilizing homegrown wind power enhances energy security and stability.


In conclusion, a single wind turbine can generate anywhere from 100 kW to 5 MW of power, depending on its size and design. The average wind turbine today generates around 2-3 MW. This is enough to power 400-900 average homes. While the power output of one turbine may seem small compared to other energy sources, wind farms with dozens or even hundreds of turbines can produce substantial amounts of electricity. Properly sited wind farms can play an important role in diversifying and decarbonizing the energy system. However, wind power still only accounts for a small percentage of global electricity generation. For wind to maximize its potential, further investment, grid integration, and storage solutions are needed. But the fundamental power output potential of a single modern wind turbine makes it a highly versatile and scalable technology.

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