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Factors Affecting the Efficiency of a Wind Turbine

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Windmills convert the wind’s kinetic energy into either mechanical or electrical energy. The energy in the wind is stored solar energy. About 5.5% of the suns energy causes difference in temperature and pressure in the atmosphere that drive the winds over the earth’s surface. In the eighteenth century, Britain alone is thought to have had some 10,000 windmills (up to 20,000) water mills). Most of these were used for moving water and are still in use as water pumps in some countries. A familiar feature in Western movies.

Nowadays, most windmills are used for power generation. Windmills that are used for power generation are called wind turbines. The use of wind machines for power generation is not a new idea, but their number has increased enormously since about 1980. So far the whole wind power industry has settled for 100-500 kW as the preferred and acceptable size.

Wind turbines are making a comeback now because unlike coal fired plants, which require expensive fuels and pollutes a lot, Fuel for wind turbines costs nothing and they are very friendly to the environment. They are also better than nuclear powered plants. This is because nuclear powered plants produce a lot of toxic waste, which remain toxic for hundreds of years. The other reason that makes wind turbines more useful now is because they are cheap to manufacture and run while other plants are expensive to install and require a highly experienced staff. This makes wind turbines useful in reducing energy shortages.


Since new and improved designs improve efficiency, the main aim of this project is to investigate factors affecting efficiency of a wind turbine. If the efficiency of a wind turbine can be increased, then the need for expensive polluting power generators will be reduced.

...read more.


Hair Dryer (generating an artificial wind)Blades (most efficient ones)Oscilloscope (measuring frequency and a/c output)Retort stand (to hold the turbine and hair dryer)Leads (normal wires)Wind gauge (to measure speed of generated wind)Crocodile clips (used to connect wires to a turbine)Thermometer


An arrangement was set up as shown in the diagram on the next page.  Retort stands were used to hold the hair dryer, wind gauge and dynamo.  All leads were connected and checked.  Then the experiment began.

How wind speed affects the a/c. output

The wind turbine will only rotate and generate power with the wind.  The power in the wind is proportional to the cube of the wind speed.  In Britain the useful power in the air passing through 1m2 can easily exceed 600W.

Wind energy delivers the kinetic energy to the blades, which rotate. Calculating the kinetic energy of the wind is easy, we use the formula (K.E = 0.5 mv2).  The faster it moves the higher the kinetic energy.  We use the kinetic energy to find a rate at which this energy is delivered to a wind turbine.  This gives us wind power.  Notice that if we double the speed (velocity) the kinetic energy becomes four times greater.


Results have confirmed my expectations, it can be seen from the graph, the wind speed has a greatly affects the productivity of a wind turbine.  The voltage generated increases as the wind speed is increased.  The main reason for this is that when we increase wind speed, we also increase its kinetic energy and therefore it’s power.  More power rotates the turbine faster and produces more current.  This is what I was expecting.


There is in fact a theoretical maximum so there are limitations.

...read more.


Leads were hanging on the air. This makes them generate a very small current when they move because of earth’s magnetic field. This current interfere with the current generate by the turbine.At very small frequencies a windturbine was vibrating a lot. It might be because of resonance and this makes an a/c output vary.


Factors affecting efficiency of a windturbine have all been investigated except for load, which is clear. When a turbine is doing work efficiency decreases and it depends on the size of the load. Numbers of blades also haven’t been investigated for the reason that many blades add unnecessary weight and create only a small amount extra force.

It can now be concluded that in order to improve efficiency what has been discussed on the experiments above has to be considered. In short this has to be done to obtain maximum efficiency in the future. Wind turbines will have to be made and installed as instructed below.

  • They will have to be placed in places with high winds blowing at high speeds.
  • On hot climate with temperatures of up to 30°C and below 50°C.
  • With long blades where wind carver a large area.
  • The number of blades should depend on the size of the turbine.
  • The angle of blades cutting through the wind should be less than 30° and more than 10°.
  • Blades should have an aerodynamic shape.

Whatever the future of windturbines may lay, the only thing which is setting them back is that winds are not reliable so until a method for storing millions of watts is discovered we will still need an alternative source of energy or a power backup.


-Janet Ramage

        Energy a guidebook

-Tom Duncan

        Advanced Physics


        Practical Physics at A level


        Physics in the environment


        Principles of Physics

-Jim Breithampt

        Understanding Physics

-Microsoft Corporation (1999)

        Encarta Encyclopaedia

-US Department of Energy (1978)

        Home wind power

-Sterland E.G.  (1967)

        Energy into power

...read more.

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