Wind energy has been used for purposes of sailing and flying for hundreds of years. Wind energy can also be harnessed for electricity via wind turbines. Turbines, advanced from the previous windmills, use the wind to turn propellers that generate electricity, delivered to homes and businesses through transmission and distribution power lines.

There are two different types of wind turbines that a primarily used. Horizontal axis turbines may be the first turbine you envision. Characterized by their long tall stance and three large blades, these turbines catch the wind with their blades and spin. The blades are attached to a generator that turns mechanical energy into electricity which is then transported. Vertical axis turbines have blades that are attached at the top and bottom of a vertical rotor– picture an egg beater. This turbine creates electricity in the same way as a horizontal axis turbine, with the only difference being how the blades catch the wind.

Wind turbine placement is carefully determined. Wind patterns vary greatly in different areas of the world, impacted by bodies of water, mountains, and different terrains. Optimal locations for wind turbines are on top of hills, in between mountains, on open plains or waters, and in areas where the wind speed averages 9 mph to 13 mph. Wind farms, or groups of turbines in the same location, are placed in areas that have high wind speeds and adequate acreage. The largest on-shore wind farm, the Gansu wind farm, is located in the Gansu province of China, and the largest offshore wind farm is the Hornsea wind farm, located off the coast of the United Kingdom.

Wind energy is seen as a great source of renewable energy because turbines don’t require fuel and have no emissions. That said, they have been widely criticized for their visual impact on landscapes. Turbines have also been criticized for industrializing the countryside. Wind farms also use a significant amount of land. For a single wind farm to power a city, the farm would take up more space than the city itself. These farms also pose a threat to wildlife due to habitat loss. Wind farms built on or close to wetlands have been linked to several landslides in Ireland.

The use of renewable sources of energy for electricity generation is growing rapidly. Many countries, including the United States, have set clean energy goals aimed at reducing carbon emissions by a certain date. Wind energy is playing its part in these goals. In fact, U.S. wind energy generation has tripled in the past decade. In 2008, the Energy Department released a goal of wind energy producing 20 percent of America’s energy mix by 2030. For reference, wind energy made up just over 8 percent of America’s energy mix in 2020. A recent report by Wood Mackenzie expects Wind energy to increase 9 percent from 2021 to 2030.

To learn more about wind energy and America’s energy mix, visit Aii Energy Month.


Written by John Cassibry, Former Media Coordinator


The Alliance for Innovation and Infrastructure (Aii) is an independent, national research and educational organization. An innovative think tank, Aii explores the intersection of economics, law, and public policy in the areas of climate, damage prevention, energy, infrastructure, innovation, technology, and transportation.