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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)

Electricity generation with wind

The amount of wind electricity generation has grown significantly in the past 30 years. Advances in wind energy technology have decreased the cost of producing electricity from wind, and government and other incentives in the United States and in other countries have encouraged growth in wind power.

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Total annual U.S. electricity generation from wind energy increased from about 6 billion kilowatthours (kWh) in 2000 to about 338 billion kWh in 2020. In 2020, wind turbines were the source of about 8.4% 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: March 17, 2021

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