How Does A Wind Turbine Work, And Can I Have One For My Birthday?

I don’t know about you, but I love the word turbine. It speaks of great, enormous machines, capable of moving vast quantities of something-or-other, and to me, have an unapproachability that makes them sexy. Kind of like the tall lanky outsider who comes to class in the middle of the quarter and never talks.

Image from

I used to work at the UCLA co-gen plant, albeit as an office-manager type person, but I did get to tour around the big co-generation plant and the engineers there would explain to me how things were working. Being the young, starry-eyed, English-major that I was, most of it went in one ear and out the other, as I wondered if my hazel-eyed, alt-rock listening, musician-on-the-side tour guide was going to ask me out. (He did, and he turned out to be fabulously brilliant, a feel-it-in-your-knees kisser and far too sweet and normal for me at 21.)

Downtown Santa Cruz, Costa Rica Image from

But I digress (do you see why I think turbines are sexy?). So, in later years, as I began to immerse myself in all sorts of alternative choices – from moving to Costa Rica to composting to not owning a TV or clothes dryer – my husband also began to immerse himself in alternative fuels. At the same time, we made frequent trips

Image from

to our nearest biggish town, Santa Cruz (not to be confused with the fabulous, seaside Santa Cruz here in California). The road to said town was bumpy, rough, potholed dirt and gravel, but had some of the most breathtaking views I’ve seen in my lifetime – great, sweeping open spaces of forest and cattle land; soft hills that turned into layered mountain ranges, huge trees who’s canopies dripped with ripe mangoes, no buildings or people for as far as your eyes could see, swirling dust and hot humid air. Amidst these views, close to the road, was one fabulously solitary windmill. I fell in love with this windmill and have wanted one ever since.

I am quite sure that the simple country windmill of my Santa Cruz trips is not what I’d get if I invested in my own personal wind turbine, but this morning I decided it was time to find out.

So what is a wind turbine anyway?

1. From Princeton:
(n) turbine (rotary engine in which the kinetic energy of a moving fluid is converted into mechanical energy by causing a bladed rotor to rotate)

2. From Wikipedia: A turbine is a rotary engine that extracts energy from a fluid flow and converts it into useful work.

The simplest turbines have one moving part, a rotor assembly, which is a shaft or drum with blades attached. Moving fluid acts on the blades, or the blades react to the flow, so that they move and impart rotational energy to the rotor. Early turbine examples are windmills and water wheels.

3. From Wiktionary:

Noun: turbine (plural turbines) 1. any of various rotarymachines that use the kinetic energy of a continuousstream of fluid (a liquid or a gas) to turn a shaft

4. From Turbine – a rotary motor driven by a flow of water, steam or wind to produce electrical energy.


My first question is answered! My windmill IS a type (albeit old-fashioned) of wind turbine! This is such great news! So, now that we (I) know what a turbine is, what exactly is a wind turbine?

Wind Turbine definition from Wikipedia (what ever did we do before Wiki?):

A wind turbine is a device that converts kinetic energy from the wind into mechanical energy. If the mechanical energy is used to produce electricity, the device may be called a wind generator or wind charger. If the mechanical energy is used to drive machinery, such as for grinding grain or pumping water, the device is called a windmill or wind pump.

And finally, how can this be applied to my house to help save energy?

Well, if you’re this guy, you can build your own and fabricate a system to not only harvest the energy, but to transfer it into useful power for your home. If you’re not that brilliant, you can purchase a system and installation (rather like you would with solar) from several different companies including Skystream Energy, and WindSpot, or you can sift through My Wind Power System and find a system that works for you.

As for me, I think I’m going to see if I can’t talk my husband (he is, in fact, brilliant enough to build a windmill and convert the energy it makes into useful energy in our home) into building me one that looks a little old fashioned and a lot like the one on the road to nowhere.
Image: Image from


Michael C.
Michael C6 years ago

Axel Beckner, What were you talking about, large turbines or small.

If it was large turbines, well, you would be way of base. The large units in operation today are quite successful, the greatest drawback lies in their transmission. With a few models, there have been issues with premature wear and breakdown. But the industry is quick to addressing the issue.

If you were referring to small home scale units, you would be partly right. The greatest concern here is noise, improper erection, maintenance, to name a few. Improper siting remains an issue, one must know the value of the site first and buy second.

Azel Beckner
Azle B6 years ago

The mass produced wind turbines are not functional and you should find a better designed wind turbine for your personal use.

Michael C.
Michael C6 years ago

Continued from below....

An installation of a wind turbine might be in your future, yet I am unfamiliar with your living situation.
I would imagine that you are on the grid, tied to a formal electricity provider. If you are in the country and have enough land to satisfy your counties code requirements, a SkyStream by SouthWest Wind Turbines would probably be best for you. Designed to work with as a grid-tied system, it could offer your family great benefits in power production.

Start with the county, next, your local airport or weather station, possibly a neighbor, who has a weather stats machine.

Over the years, we have seen too many people go out and purchase thousands of $$$ of equipment, only to find out that it is entirely wrong for the task, or the battle with the county could take years to win.

Michael C.
Michael C6 years ago

Before anyone decides to purchase a wind turbine, they must satisfy many questions.
1) Where do you live, country, suburbs or city?
2) Your counties current code regulations on the erection of such? This can prove difficult.
3) Immediate proximity to neighbors, this in itself can be the deal breaker.
4) While it is listed here as number 4, it in itself should be number 1. Are you located in an area or place that a wind turbine would operate sufficiently, in other words, do you have the fuel for its operation? That being WIND.
These are but a few of the questions that must be answered before going from dreaming to actualization of the dream.
Counties differ as to their acceptance of the idea and erection, largely due to fact that most are unfamiliar with turbines.
Neighbors will most probably be quite vocal, expressing the probable dangers of collapse , the noise, the visual aspects, even attempting to gain insurance to protect your investment and to satisfy the county and those neighbors, might prove difficult.

Continued above.....

Treesa Math
tia Math6 years ago


Spoorthi B.
Spoorthi BS6 years ago

hi everyone, please sign this petition and help

Ruth R.
Ruth R6 years ago

Nice, saved, emailed to save.

Ruth R.
Ruth R6 years ago


Deborah Weinischke
Deborah H6 years ago

A home wind turbine may be a good idea, but a wind farm in an inhabited area can prove disastrous. It involves blasting, strobe lights, unpleasant physical effects on people and animals, killing off many trees. widening country roads, creating quarries. I would like to see smaller, more localized wind farms. I'm all for alternative energy, but these projects must be well-planned out to not impact residents.

heather g.
heather g6 years ago

I'm afraid to say the Chinese have moved way ahead of those systems. They're turning out thousands upon thousands of small wind-generated energy systems that can be fitted into any home, even small apartments. To encourage people to go green, the cost is not as prohibitive as it would be in USA or Canada. People are ready for it here but it needs to be affordable. There are many videos on the internet to walk you through the steps of making a home-made solar panel. All you need is a good DIY guy !! Good luck......