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How Wind Turbines Work

The role of a wind turbine is to take the kinetic energy created from moving air (i.e. wind) and turn it into electricity. In other words, it transfers energy from one form of medium, to another.

How does it work?

  • A wind turbine consists of 2-3 peller-like blades around a rotor.
  • The rotor is connected to a shaft that leads from the hub of the rotor to a generator.
  • When the turbine blades capture wind, they cause the shaft to spin.
  • The generator takes the rotational energy and turns it into electricity.
  • In order to capture the most energy, the turbines are mounted on towers that reach 100 feet or more above the ground.
  • The higher altitude creates an environment with faster and less turbulent wind.

How Solar Power Works

When the sun shines on a solar panel, it is hitting the panel with particles of light called “photons.” The panels allow the photons to knock electrons from from atoms and in turn, generate a flow of electricity.

  • Atoms are the basic building blocks of matter consisting of protons (a positive electrical charge), neutrons (no electrical charge), and electrons (a negative electrical charge)

So how exactly does a solar panel work?

  • Solar panels comprise of many, smaller units called photovoltaic cells
    • Photovoltaic means they convert sunlight into energy
  • Each photovoltaic cell is basically a sandwich made up of two slices of semiconducting material
    • Usually silicon, the same material used in microelectronics
  • In order to work, photovoltaic cells need to establish an electric field (similar to a magnetic field).
  • To create the electric field, one half of the “sandwich” must have a negative charge and the other a positive one.
  • Phosphorous is seeded into the top layer of silicon; adding extra electrons and creating a negative  charge.
  • Boron is added to the bottom silicon layer, resulting in fewer electrons and creating a positive charge.
  • Between the negative and positive charges, an electric field is formed.
  • When sunlight hits the solar panel, the photons knock the electrons free and the electric field pushes the electron out.
  • Metal conductive plates on the sides of the cell collect the electrons and transfer them into wires.
  • Once transferred into wires, the electrons work like any other source of electricity.