U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Wind Program

How Do Distributed Wind Energy Systems Work? (Text Version)

Below is the text version for the How Do Distributed Wind Energy Systems Work? animation.

The animation shows a city powered by wind power. It includes a utility-scale wind farm, connected by transmission lines to a city with homes, farms, and a school. The animation explains how wind can be used at all of these interconnected locations.

Distributed Wind

Distributed wind systems use wind energy to produce clean, emissions-free power for homes, farms, schools, and businesses. LEARN MORE.

Utility-Scale Wind

A group of large wind turbines in the same location used to produce electricity. Utility-scale wind farms are typically greater than 20 MW and may consist of dozens to several hundred individual wind turbines over a large area, but the land between the turbines may be used for agriculture or other purposes. A wind farm may also be located offshore.

Transmission

Transmission lines conduct large amounts of electricity across long distances, linking various regions of the country together. The transmission system connects to the distribution system through a substation.

Distribution

The electric distribution system moves energy from a transmission substation to houses, businesses, and other energy users within a local area.

Utility-Scale Wind Photo Gallery

This gallery includes these photos:

  • Forward Wind Energy Center: Photo of a farm with seven wind turbines located on the edge of a plowed field.
  • Acciona AW-1500/82 1.5 MW wind turbines: Photo of wind turbines lined up along the roads and fields of a rural area.
  • 63-MW Dry Lake Wind Power Project: Photo of several wind turbines in the desert of Arizona.

Community Wind

A community wind energy project is an asset owned by a local community. It is defined by an ownership model rather than by the application or size of the wind energy system. Depending on point of interconnection and proximity to end use, community wind projects can be characterized as either utility-scale or distributed. Nonprofit rural electric cooperatives or municipal utilities can own community wind projects and use them to diversify electricity supplies. Community wind projects can be used by schools, hospitals, businesses, farms, ranches, or community facilities to supply local electricity.

Community Wind Photo Gallery

This gallery includes these photos:

  • 0.6-MW Enertech Turbine: Photo of a wind turbine on the edge of a bay with Chelsea, Massachusetts visible across the water.
  • Northern Power Systems 100 kW Wind: Photo of two wind turbines located on the side of a river.

School

Small turbines, multi-megawatt turbines, and even a cluster of small turbines can be used to power schools with clean energy and provide economic benefits. School districts can take advantage of savings on energy bills and in some cases generate revenue. Wind projects provide a great educational opportunity for students.

School Photo Gallery

This gallery includes these photos:

  • Northern Power Systems Northwind 100: Photo of a red brick school with school buses pulled up in front and a wind turbine spinning behind the school.
  • Northern Power Systems Northwind: Photo of a small wind turbine on a children's playground.

Residential

Small wind turbines can be used in residential settings to directly offset electricity usage using net metering, where power that is not used by the home is credited to the customer as it flows back on to the electricity system. Wind turbines used near homes are commonly in the 1- to 10-kW range but can be larger. They can be used to partially offset load or support a completely off-grid home. These turbines can sometimes be integrated with other components, such as PV systems and storage and power converters.

There is also an animation that shows how a turbine attached to a residential home works. When there is not enough wind to start up a wind turbine, the house gets all of its electricity from the distribution system. When wind speeds are moderate, the wind turbine offsets some or all of the home's electricity. When it is very windy, the wind turbine produces more electricity than the home uses, so excess electricity is metered, and credited to the customer, as it flows back on to the distribution grid.

Residential Photo Gallery

This gallery includes these photos:

  • Bergey Wind Turbines: Photo of a home in the desert with a small wind turbines in the front and back yards.
  • Southwest Windpower's 1.8 kW Skystream: Photo of a residential home with a small wind turbine in the yard and solar panels on the roof.

Agriculture

Wind turbines can provide farms with low-cost electricity—an important economic boost and direct benefit for farmers. Regardless of turbine size, a farmer can plant crops right up to the base of the turbine, and livestock are free to graze around it.

Agriculture Photo Gallery

This gallery includes these photos:

  • Bergey 10 kW Excel: Photo of a turbine on a farm, next to the farm buildings and silos.
  • 10 kW Bergey: Photo of a turbine on a field behind a herd of dairy cows.