Wind can be used to do work. The kinetic energy of the wind can be changed into other forms of energy, either mechanical energy or electrical energy. Wind energy is ample, renewable, widely distributed, clean, and mitigates the greenhouse effect if used to replace fossil-fuel-derived electricity.
Blowing wind spins the blades on a wind turbine — just like a large toy pinwheel. This device is called a wind turbine and not a windmill. A windmill grinds or mills grain, or is used to pump water.The blades of the turbine are attached to a hub that is mounted on a turning shaft. The shaft goes through a gear transmission box where the turning speed is increased. The transmission is attached to a high speed shaft which turns a generator that makes electricity.
If the wind gets too high, the turbine has a brake that will keep the blades from turning too fast and being damaged. There is still the problem of what to do when the wind isn’t blowing. At those times, other types of power plants must be used to make electricity.
Wind is simple air in motion. The origin of wind is complex. The Earth is unevenly heated by the sun resulting in the poles receiving less energy from the sun than the equator does. Also the dry land heats up (and cools down) more quickly than the seas do. The differential heating powers a global atmospheric convection system reaching from the Earth’s surface to the stratosphere which acts as a virtual ceiling.
An estimated 1% to 3% of energy from the Sun that hits the earth is converted into wind energy. This is about 50 to 100 times more energy than is converted into biomass by all the plants on Earth through photosynthesis. Most of this wind energy can be found at high altitudes where continuous wind speeds of over 160 km/h (100 mph) occur. Eventually, the wind energy is converted through friction into diffuse heat throughout the Earth’s surface and atmosphere.