Different Types of Wind Turbines and How They Work

Different Types of Wind Turbines
Photo by Karsten Würth

Different types of wind turbines come in all shapes and sizes, each designed to capture the energy of the wind in various ways to produce power.

Some wind turbines are more effective at capturing wind and can do so, while others are better suited to particular conditions or locations than others. 

This article provides an overview of the five most common types of wind turbines and their pros and cons.

You’ll learn about the horizontal axis, vertical axis, Darrieus, Savonius, and eggbeater-style turbines, as well as about how they work and their advantages and disadvantages when compared to one another.

An Introduction to Wind Turbines

Different types of wind turbines are used to generate electricity from the wind. The horizontal-axis wind turbine (HAWT) has blades rotating around a horizontal shaft.

There are also vertical-axis wind turbines (VAWT), which revolve around a vertical pole, and the Darrieus wind turbine, which circles a curved rod. 

HAWTs are the most common type of wind turbine in use today. They are generally more efficient than VAWTs but require more maintenance. Darrieus turbines are the least common type, but they can be very efficient.

History of Wind Turbines?

Europe developed the first wind turbines in the early 1800s in Europe and the United States. It used these early machines to pump water or grind grain. In the late 1800s, Europe developed wind turbines to generate electricity. 

They built the first electricity-generating wind turbine in Scotland in 1887. By the early 1900s, wind turbines were used to generate electricity on farms and in small rural communities.

In the 1970s, oil crises increased interest in renewable energy sources, including wind power. 

There are three types of wind turbines: horizontal axis, vertical axis, and Savonius rotor. A horizontal axis wind turbine consists of towers with blades that capture the wind’s kinetic energy.

Vertical axis wind turbines consist of blades that capture kinetic energy from air moving at right angles.

Different Types of Wind Turbines

The most common among the different types of wind turbines is the horizontal-axis turbine, with blades spinning on a horizontal axis.

Vertical-axis turbines have blades that turn on the vertical axis and are often used in urban areas. Offshore turbines are similar to onshore turbines but are designed for saltwater environments.

1. Horizontal Axis Wind Turbines

Also known as H-AWTs, horizontal axis wind turbines are the most common among the different wind turbines.

The blades on a horizontal axis turbine rotate around a central shaft, much like a fan. The main difference is that H-AWTs are mounted on towers, allowing them to take advantage of higher wind speeds. 

These turbines can be used for onshore and offshore applications. One drawback is their relative simplicity, which is often more expensive than other types of turbines.

Another drawback is that this type of turbine only has one gearbox per generator, so it needs to be located near the center of rotation. Finally, horizontal axis turbines don’t work well in high winds.

2. Vertical Axis Wind Turbines

Also known as VAWTs, these turbines have blades that rotate around a vertical shaft, and it’s one of the different types of wind turbines.

The main advantage of VAWTs is that they can be mounted on rooftops, making them much more space-efficient than traditional horizontal-axis wind turbines.

They’re also quieter and produce less vibration, which can be essential in areas with noise ordinances. 

VAWTs typically have lower power output than HAWTs, but recent technological advances are beginning to close the gap.

They also tend to be cheaper because they use more explicit materials, making them an attractive option for homeowners trying to cut down their electricity bills.

3. Savonius Rotor

It is named after its inventor, Finnish engineer Sigurd J. Savonius. The Savonius rotor is a vertical-axis wind turbine (VAWT).

VAWTs are less common among the different types of wind turbines than horizontal-axis wind turbines (HAWTs), but they have some advantages. 

The main advantage of the Savonius rotor is that it can be built from inexpensive materials like steel drums or pipes.

The rotor consists of two or more blades that rotate around a central shaft, and the blades are curved to catch the wind at different times, making the rotor more efficient.

The Savonius rotor is not as efficient as other turbines but is cheaper to build and maintain.

4. Darrieus Rotor

The Darrieus rotor is an eggbeater-shaped turbine patented in 1931 by Georges Darrieus. It is one of the different types of wind turbines, and the blades are curved and attached to a central shaft that runs vertically. 

Darrieus turbines are typically used in small-scale applications like powering boats or charging batteries. These windmills have low mechanical efficiency (about 10%), but this can be increased by up to 40% with improved design. 

Darrieus machines, invented in 1932, were installed at Whitelee Wind Farm outside Glasgow from 1991 until 2001.

The fan-like wings produce strong air currents for all types of weather conditions and winds between 8-10 mph, generating electricity for about 3 hours per day on average – making it one of Europe’s most productive farms.

How Does the Wind Turbine Work?

Wind turbines work by using the wind to turn turbines. The turbine is connected to a generator, which produces electricity. Most wind turbines produce alternating current (AC), but some have direct DC. 

The type of current depends on the turbine. For the power plant to keep producing energy, it must be able to capture enough wind to keep rotating. 

A blade with an area that is too small won’t be able to capture enough energy from the air currents; whereas if it has a place that’s too large, it will get too much power from one gust or gusts and then quickly slow down as air resistance increases because of turbulence in its wake. 

Designers must consider factors such as how strong or fast winds are typically at a particular site before choosing what size blades are appropriate for their design.

How Do Wind Turbines Generate Electricity?

The blades of a wind turbine are connected to a generator, which produces electricity. When the wind blows, the blades spin the rotor, and the spinning rotor turns the generator, sending electricity through power lines to homes and businesses.

The amount of electricity a turbine can produce depends on its size, blade length, rotor diameter, average wind speed at its location, and how efficiently it converts mechanical energy into electrical energy.

Conclusion

There are three types of wind turbines: horizontal-axis, vertical-axis, and direct-drive. Horizontal-axis turbines require a lot of maintenance, and Vertical-axis turbines are less efficient but easier to maintain. 

Direct-drive turbines are the most efficient but expensive among the different types of wind turbines. The essential factor in choosing a turbine is understanding the needs of your project.

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