How does Wind Power work?

In these unprecedented times continuing to rely on fossil fuels for energy in the UK is a risky business. 

The UK government is starting to focus on creating strategies that will affectively enable the UK to be energy sufficient, as quickly as possible. 

The government has stated that it would like to generate enough wind energy to power every home in the UK by 2030.

The first automatic wind turbine used to generate electricity is said to have been built in Scotland in 1887 by prof James Blyth. Blyth’s 10m high, cloth-sailed wind turbine was installed in the garden of his holiday cottage at Marykirk in Kincardineshire to power the lighting inside. 

What is wind power?

Wind power has been used for as long as humans have put sails into the wind, wind is actually a form of solar power, caused by the heating of the sun, the rotation of the earth and the earth’s surface irregularities. 

Wind power is the conversion of this wind into a useful mechanical energy, such as electricity. 

The wind is harnessed using mostly wind turbines, these are often found inland on ‘wind farms’ or offshore on the sea bed making use of the high sea winds. 

How does a wind turbine work?

Wind turbines operate on a simple principle. 

Gusts of wind spin the propellor like blades around a rotor, the rotor is connected to a main shaft which spins a generator to create electricity. 

Once the electricity has been ‘harvested’, it needs to be transmitted through a substation where its stepped up to high voltage ready to be used by the consumer.


There are two different types of wind farms, onshore and offshore. 

Onshore wind farms have been around for a lot longer than offshore wind farms.

Onshore wind farms harvest wind that blows off the sea towards the land, whereas offshore wind farms harvest wind that blows off the land towards the sea.

Onshore wind farms are a significantly cheaper way of harvesting electricity than offshore, in some cases it is half the cost and can provide investment payback in as quickly as two years. 

This is due to lower maintenance costs; the turbines are easier to get to, they are on land, plus with less distance between the turbine and the consumer there is less voltage drop-off in the cabling. 

Offshore wind farming calls for under water cables to reach the consumer, much more costly. 

Offshore wind farms are however more consistent, the sea winds are much stronger, small increases in speed can produce large increases in power, subsequently fewer wind turbines are needed out at sea. 

Onshore turbines can be subject to physical blockages from buildings and hills, making them less consistent.

Onshore wind farms can also be viewed as an eye sore to the landscape, especially if they are being utilised on high ground. 

Offshore turbines do not have as much visual or sound impact, if you have never actually heard a wind turbine, up close they have a similar sound to a lawnmower…

Onshore or offshore, wind power is a powerful renewable energy source. One that nature constantly replenishes so it can be harnessed without the worry of it depleting!

Advantages of wind power

Wind is a clean fuel source. It produces no air or water pollution.

The nations wind supply is abundant and inexhaustible making it the largest source of renewable power. 

Wind farms create jobs.

Disadvantages of wind power

Wind reliability. No wind, no power!

Threat to wildlife, it is estimated that between 10,000 and 100,000 birds are killed by turbine blade strikes annually in the UK alone.

Noise and visual pollution. As briefly noted above, wind turbines are big and they are definitely not silent! 

It is to be noted that wind energy is emerging as a genuine competitor thanks to constant advances in turbine technology, improving efficiency whilst reducing its negative impacts. 

There are now more than 11,000 wind turbines on and offshore that produce nearly a quarter of the UK’s electricity. 

Working in the wind energy industry 

Wind energy is gaining in popularity and thus so is employment in the industry.

The government says wind along with solar will be one of the fastest growing occupations in the next ten years.

For more information on working with wind power, check out The Global Wind Organisation’s website.

The Global Wind Organisation (GWO) is a non-profit body founded by leading wind turbine manufactures and operators, it sets the standards for working with Wind turbines.

If you enjoy heights and the outdoors, training to the level of a wind turbine technician is an excellent career choice.

It is full of opportunities to travel, earn good money and to be part of a growing industry.

The future of wind power is looking bright! 


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