What Is The Purpose Of Wind Turbines?

What is the purpose of wind turbines?

Wind turbines are large machines that use rotating blades to harness the kinetic energy in wind and convert it into electricity. Interest and growth in wind power has increased rapidly in recent years due to its clean and renewable nature as well as advancements in wind turbine technology that have made it more efficient and cost-effective.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the amount of electricity generated by wind power in the United States has grown over 10 times in the past decade, from 25 gigawatt-hours in 2010 to over 275 gigawatt-hours in 2019. With concerns over climate change and energy independence growing, wind power is seen as a sustainable way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while meeting energy needs with an abundant domestic resource.

Government incentives and investments in wind turbine research and development have accelerated the expansion of wind farms across the country. Wind turbines can now operate at lower wind speeds and over larger areas, leading to greater energy output. This has made wind power competitive with conventional sources when it comes to cost per kilowatt-hour.

Generating Electricity

Wind turbines generate electricity by converting the kinetic energy in wind into mechanical power, which then generates electricity. Wind flows into the turbine and passes over the blades, causing them to spin around. The rotational motion of the blades turns a shaft inside the nacelle, which connects to a generator. The spinning shaft triggers the generator to produce electricity through electromagnetic induction. The generator sends electricity down a cable inside the tower and into a transformer located at the base of the turbine. This steps up the voltage before sending the electricity into the grid.

The key steps in how a wind turbine generates electricity are:

  1. Wind flows past the blades, which causes them to rotate.
  2. The rotational motion spins the shaft connected to a generator inside the nacelle.
  3. The spinning shaft turns electromagnets inside the generator.
  4. The electromagnets rotate past copper wire coils, inducing a flow of electrons that generates electricity.
  5. The electricity travels down the tower cable to a transformer.
  6. The transformer steps up the voltage before sending electricity to the grid.

In summary, wind turbines use the natural power of the wind to generate clean, renewable electricity. The spinning blades turn a generator that converts the wind’s kinetic energy into electrical energy without any emissions. This allows wind turbines to provide sustainable power to homes and businesses connected to the utility grid.


Providing Clean Energy

Wind power is considered a clean and renewable energy source because it does not emit greenhouse gases or toxic pollutants. Wind turbines convert the kinetic energy of wind into mechanical power to generate electricity. This process does not involve any combustion or release of emissions. According to a 2017 study, generating electricity from wind emits between 0.02 and 0.04 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour. In comparison, natural gas emits between 0.6 and 2 pounds. This makes wind energy’s carbon footprint over 90% lower than fossil fuel sources.

Wind is also sustainable because it relies on an endless, freely available resource—the wind. Unlike fossil fuels that exist in finite reserves, wind can generate electricity indefinitely. Expanding wind power would allow society to move away from unsustainable energy practices that degrade the environment. The environmental benefits of wind include lower air pollution, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and minimal water use. Wind energy is key for the transition to a cleaner, more sustainable energy system.

Supplying the Grid

Wind farms help supply the electrical grid and meet energy demands by generating large amounts of electricity that feeds directly into the grid. As Marten et al. explain, “Wind power plants are connected via transformers and transmission lines to electricity grids, to match consumption and production of electrical energy” (Marten et al., 2023). The wind turbines harness kinetic energy from the wind and convert it into electricity using generators. This electricity is then transported via underground cables to a nearby substation, where voltage is increased to send power through transmission lines to reach the grid. According to estimates from the U.S. Department of Energy, the power generated from wind could supply 10% of U.S. electricity demands by 2020, 20% by 2030, and 35% by 2050. As more wind farms are constructed, they will have greater capacity to meet the country’s energy needs through grid integration.

Creating Jobs

Wind power projects generate substantial economic opportunities and jobs at the local level. Based on research, the average number of jobs created per installed megawatt capacity of wind power is 1.7 for direct and indirect jobs during manufacturing, construction, and maintenance (Source). Most of these jobs are created in the communities around wind farms during the construction phase. There is also significant ongoing job creation related to operating and maintaining the wind turbines after construction is completed.

For example, a 37.5 MW wind farm reportedly creates 180 person-years of employment over a 10-year period (Source). Based on projections, generating 2,000 MW of wind power in a state or region leads to nearly 10,000 new jobs. The job opportunities span multiple industries and skill sets, from manufacturing and construction to technical maintenance roles.

In summary, wind turbine projects boost local economies by creating stable, decent-paying jobs related to producing the equipment, building the facilities, and keeping the turbines running optimally.

Lowering Energy Costs

Wind energy helps stabilize and reduce electricity prices in several ways. First, wind turbines have no fuel costs, so adding wind energy to the grid displaces the most expensive sources of electricity, usually older fossil fuel plants (See Martinez-Anido 2016). This reduces overall electricity prices. Second, wind energy helps protect consumers from fuel price volatility. The fuel costs for gas and coal plants can vary a lot, while wind energy has zero fuel costs (See WINDExchange). Finally, adding wind energy to the grid increases competition among electricity generators, putting downward pressure on wholesale electricity prices (See Green 2011). Overall, ample research shows that increased wind energy penetration reduces electricity prices for consumers.

Supporting Rural Communities

Wind turbines provide financial benefits to rural communities through land lease payments and increased tax revenue. Landowners receive regular lease payments from wind energy companies for allowing turbines to be built on their land. According to a study by the U.K.’s Planning Inspectorate, wind farms in rural Wales pay about £1,000 per megawatt of installed capacity to property owners1. For a 50 MW wind farm, that could mean over £50,000 in annual lease payments to local farmers and landowners.

Wind projects also generate significant tax revenue for rural communities. Local governments collect property taxes from wind farms, and some utilize PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) agreements. This added income can help fund schools, infrastructure, and other community services. One study estimated that a 250 MW wind farm could generate over $1 million per year in local tax revenue2.


1. The Planning Act 2008 (as amended) Mynydd y Gwynt Wind Farm Examining Authority’s Report to the Secretary of State

2. Wind Energy Has Limited Impacts on Rural Economies, Berkeley Lab, 2016.

Addressing Climate Change

Wind turbines play an important role in addressing climate change as part of a broader strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. According to research, wind power can make a significant contribution to climate change mitigation and reducing CO2 emissions (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1364032117301697). By generating electricity from wind rather than fossil fuels like coal or natural gas, wind turbines produce no greenhouse gas emissions during operation. Each megawatt-hour of electricity generated by a wind turbine avoids emissions that would have been produced if that same electricity were generated by a fossil fuel source. Wind turbines helped avoid an estimated 202 million metric tons of CO2 emissions in the United States in 2020 alone (https://www.awea.org). As an inexhaustible and emissions-free energy source, wind power can continue displacing fossil fuels far into the future, providing ongoing reductions in greenhouse gas emissions as more turbines are installed.

Reducing Dependence on Fossil Fuels

Wind power provides energy independence by utilizing a clean, renewable domestic energy source. This reduces dependence on imported fossil fuels and exposure to global price fluctuations. The U.S. Department of Energy states that increasing renewable energy to 20% of the electricity generation mix by 2030 could create over a quarter million jobs and save consumers billions in energy costs.1 Domestically produced wind energy also enhances national security by reducing the reliance on foreign energy supplies that can be disrupted by geopolitical instability.


In summary, wind power plays a crucial role in the sustainable energy future through generating clean electricity, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, supporting rural communities, and decreasing dependence on finite fossil fuels. As the article from Renewable Institute explains, wind power is expected to supply over one-third of the world’s energy needs by 2050. By leveraging wind as an abundant renewable resource, wind turbines help curb climate change, foster energy independence, and create jobs. While wind energy does come with some downsides like intermittent generation, the numerous benefits make it an essential part of the global energy transition. Wind turbines are a critical technology for supplying renewable power, addressing environmental concerns, and building the green economy. With continued innovation and investment, wind can realize its vast potential and steer the planet to a more sustainable energy system.

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