Wind Energy and Its Uses
Wind energy facilities convert energy from the motion of wind into electricity that is sent to energy consumers via electric transmission systems.
What Is Wind Energy?
Wind is simply air in motion. Winds are created by the sun's uneven heating of the atmosphere in combination with the irregular surface of the earth and the earth's rotation. These winds can be "harvested" using wind turbines and used to make electricity. The force of the wind makes the wind turbine blades spin, and the energy of this motion is converted into electricity by a generator. See a brief wind turbine animation on DOE's Energy Basics Web site.
Wind energy is a free, renewable resource. Its use does not affect its future supply.
How Can We Use Energy from the Wind?
Wind turbines can convert the energy in the wind into mechanical power that can be used for a variety of activities like pumping water. Wind turbines can also use generators to convert wind energy into electricity.
How Is Electricity from Wind Energy Sent to Users?
The electricity is sent to users through a transmission system that consists of electric transmission lines, towers, substations, and other components (see the Energy Transmission section to learn more). One challenge for transmission of electricity from wind energy is that the wind is intermittent (it comes and goes). Winds cannot be stored for future use. Small amounts of wind-generated electricity can be stored using batteries; however, intermittency does create concerns for the stability and reliability of utility-scale wind energy generation. The integration of wind energy into a transmission system requires careful engineering to properly condition the power generated, and careful planning to balance the mix of wind energy with other sources of energy generation.