Wind Energy Workings and Benefits

Neil Jain
January 13, 2017

Submitted as coursework for PH240, Stanford University, Fall 2016


Fig. 1: Global wind power capacity versus time. [4] (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Wind turbines work very similar to many other power generation technologies. However, instead of water, diesel, or steam, it uses wind to provide energy. Blades are pointed into the wind which then capture the energy and turn turbines. It is easy to think about wind power as a reversed fan where instead of using electricity to produce wind, wind turbines use wind to produce energy. Wind turbines start producing energy at typically around 8 - 9 mph but with less speed there is not enough to produce energy. Turbines also won't produce energy with wind speeds above 25 mph because they shut down to protect from damage. [1]


Wind energy has many benefits. Firstly, wind energy provides thousands of jobs to many communities. Wind turbines require manufacturers, construction workers, installation workers, maintenance workers, operations workers, lawyers, marketers, transportation and logistical workers, and more. Second, wind turbines have low energy costs because there are no fuel costs that come along with producing wind energy. Lastly, and arguably most importantly, wind energy is renewable and clean. It does not pollute water or the air with emissions. [2]

Altamont Wind Farm

Altamont Wind Farm is the largest on-shore wind farm outside of China. It is located in Altamont Pass, California. While originally having thousands of units, they were forced to shut down many due to claims that they kill thousands of birds every year. This leads to one of the clear disadvantages in wind power, which is the unnecessary deaths of birds who unintentionally fly into the turbines. Because of this, Altamont, and many other wind farms face lawsuits from many activists and environmental groups. [3]


Considering whether or not we should produce more wind energy, is a tricky and important question. While there are drawbacks, including the cause of deaths of many birds and other potential problems, there are lots of benefits. Given the state of the earth and the looming dangers of climate change I believe wind energy is an important piece to diversifying our energy portfolio in an effort to move away from relying on fossil fuels. While it may not be the end-all, be-all solution, it will help lead us to energy freedom and a better world.

© Neil Jain. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] D. Reinemann and J. Heinzen, "How Do Wind Turbines Generate Electricity?" Midwest Rural Energy Council, February 2014.

[2] R. Swan, "Altamont Wind Farm's Permit Extended Despite Fear of Bird Deaths," San Francisco Chronicle, 24 Mar 15.

[3] "Wind Energy Benefits," U.S. Department of Energy, DOE/GO-102015-4511, January 2015.

[4] "Global Wind Statistics 2015," Global Wind Energy Council, February 2016.