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12.12: Wind Power

Difficulty Level: Basic Created by: CK-12
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Is this what a wind farm looks like?

It's a strange sight. You're driving up the road in Southern California and sprouting from the ground is a pack of windmills! Windmills are becoming more common on the eastern side of the mountains. This is because the wind comes off the Pacific Ocean and funnels through mountain passes. The wind is strong and California wants to take advantage of it.

Wind Power

Winds are funneled through passes in mountain ranges. Altamont Pass in California is the site of many wind turbines.

The energy from the Sun creates wind (Figure above). Wind energy moves by convection. The Sun heats some locations more than others. Warm air rises, so other air rushes in to fill the hole left by the rising air. This horizontal movement of air is called wind.

Wind as a Resource

Wind power uses moving air as a source of energy. Some types of wind power have been around for a long time. People have used windmills to grind grain and pump water for hundreds of years. Sailing ships have depended on wind for millennia. Wind is now used to generate electricity. Moving air can make a turbine spin, just like moving water can. Moving air has kinetic energy. When wind hits the blades of the turbine, the kinetic energy makes the blades move. The turbine spins and creates electricity.

Wind Power Advantages and Disadvantages

Wind power has many advantages. It is clean: it does not release pollutants or carbon dioxide. It is plentiful almost everywhere. The technology to harness wind energy is being developed rapidly.

Wind power also has problems. Wind does not blow all of the time, so wind energy must be stored for later use. Alternatively, another energy source needs to be available when the wind is not blowing. Wind turbines are expensive. they can wear out quickly. Finally, windmills are not welcomed by residents of some locations. They say that they are unattractive. Yet even with these problems, wind turbines are a competitive form of renewable energy.

Many states are currently using wind power. Wind turbines are set up in mountain passes. This is common in California, where cool Pacific Ocean air is sucked across the passes and into the warmer inland valleys.


  • Wind contains kinetic energy. The energy can move a turbine. This generates electricity.
  • Wind power is clean. It does not release pollutants or greenhouse gases.
  • Some people complain about the spread of windmills across certain locations, but still the use of wind energy is increasing.


Use this resource to answer the questions that follow.


  1. How much has wind power production increased in the United States?
  2. How do wind turbines work?
  3. What is the wind vane for?
  4. What does an anemometer measure?
  5. What is the yaw drive for?
  6. What is the wind potential in your state?
  7. What are the advantages of an off grid system?
  8. What are the advantages of wind farms?


  1. Describe how wind energy can be harnessed.
  2. What are some of the downsides of using wind power?
  3. Why do you think that wind power use is increasing?

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convection The transfer of heat by motion in the atmosphere from lower to higher.
turbine A machine in which kinetic energy is converted to mechanical power.

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Difficulty Level:
6 , 7
Date Created:
Jan 04, 2013
Last Modified:
Aug 29, 2016
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