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7 Things You Didn’t Know About Wind Turbines

( 06/20/2019 ) Written by: Anne Torgler

First, What's the Difference?

A wind turbine converts wind energy into electricity, which can then be used to power electrical equipment, stored in batteries or transmitted over power lines. Though "windmill" is frequently used to describe electricity-generating wind turbines, the wind power industry and windmill manufacturers both make a careful distinction between the terms.

Now, the fun tidbits of information...

1. What's 3 times wider than a football field, stands the height of the Flatiron building, and can power a small town?

Wind turbines are available in a variety of sizes and power ratings. The largest machine has blades that each span more than 350 feet, stands 20 building stories high, and produces enough electricity to power 15,000 homes.

2. Over 6 But Less Than 55

Wind turbines produce electricity when air speeds are between 6 and 55 mph. As wind speeds increase, so does electricity production. Any higher and they automatically shut down to prevent damage.

3. Offshore Winds = 3x Inland Winds

Offshore wind farms can offer three times the amount of power compared to onshore turbines, since there is more wind blowing over the sea than on land. The reason for this is the presence of high and low air pressure areas close to each other.

Sunlight naturally warms some area of the earth more than others. Because warm air weighs less than cold air, it rises and leaves an area of low air pressure. Then cooler, higher pressure air flows in to replace the warm air. The closer high and low air pressure areas are to each another, the more wind there is.

Land areas heat up more quickly than the sea; so when the warm air over land rises, cooler air from over the water blows in to fill the gap.

4. 20+ Years Lifetime

Wind turbines can generate electricity for 20 to 25 years. Over their lifetime they will run continuously for as much as 120,000 hours (or about 5,000 days, or 13.7 years, or 7.2 million minutes).

5. Balancing GHGs

Over its 25-year life an average wind turbine will offset approximately 1.2 tons of air pollutants and 200 tons of greenhouse gases.

6. Lower Utility Bills

Getting your electricity from a wind turbine typically lowers your utility bill by 50-90%. It is not uncommon for homeowners with total electric homes to have monthly utility bills of $8-$15 for part of the year. For even bigger spreadsheet savings, a wind system will usually recoup its investment through utility savings within 6-10 years and after that the electricity it produces will be virtually free (aside from maintenance costs).

Las Vegas at night

7. Fewer Barrels = Brighter Lights

Five 380-foot-tall wind turbines provide enough energy to save the energy equivalent of 11,964 barrels of crude oil per year. The energy contained in a barrel of oil is approximately 1,700 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy. Doing the math—that's 20,338,800 kWH or enough to power the Las Vegas Strip for 5½ years!

For more information on wind energy and wind turbines see our previous blogs and visit our wind energy page.

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