Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Marissa from Bay City, MI. Marissa Wonders, “How do wind farms work?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Marissa!

What do you think of when you hear the word “farm”? Animals? Vegetables? Tractors? Farmers? Would you believe there are farms without any of those things? It’s true! What are we talking about? Wind farms!

Wind farms are areas where many large wind turbines have been grouped together. They “harvest” the power of the wind. These large turbines look a bit like super-tall windmills.

A large wind farm can have hundreds of wind turbines spread out over hundreds of miles. The land between the turbines may be used for other purposes, such as regular farming. Some wind farms are also located near bodies of water. There, they take advantage of winds that blow across lakes or oceans.

Did you know that wind energy is actually another form of solar energy? Earth’s shape and rotation work with the Sun’s uneven heating of the atmosphere to make winds. 

Wind farms are built in areas known to be especially windy on a regular basis. The winds turn the blades of the turbines. Then, the turbines turn the energy of the wind into mechanical power. Generators then turn the mechanical power into electricity. That electricity is then used to power homes.

You can think of a wind turbine as the opposite of a fan. A fan uses electricity to make wind. Wind turbines do the opposite: they use the wind to make electricity! As the wind turns the blades of a wind turbine, the blades cause a shaft to spin. The spinning shaft connects to a generator that creates electricity.

Are you wondering why scientists looked to the wind as an energy source? There are plenty of good reasons. Wind energy is free and renewable. Unlike most power plants, wind farms don’t emit pollution or greenhouse gases.

However, wind farms can cost a lot of money to set up. Over time, though, their cost is competitive with other types of generating systems. Unfortunately, you can’t make the wind blow whenever you want it to. That means wind farms can’t always meet electricity needs on demand.

Over time, scientists believe new technologies will make wind power even more popular. They believe people may one day store wind power in batteries for on-demand use. Wind power already accounts for about 3% of the United States’ electricity. Experts believe wind power will account for 20% of the nation’s electricity by 2030.

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.W.4, NGSS.ESS3.A

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