Hands-on Activity: Wind Power! Designing a Wind Turbine
Educational Standards :
Learning Objectives (Return to Contents)
After this activity, students should be able to:
Materials List (Return to Contents)
For the entire class to share:
Each group needs:
Introduction/Motivation (Return to Contents)
Have you ever felt a really strong wind? How does it feel? Have you ever felt blown around by the wind? Wind can actually do work for us by moving things around. Sometimes we do not want the wind to move things, like when it blows our papers around and we have to pick them up. But sometimes we want the wind to move things around for us. For example, when the wind moves the blades of a wind turbine (a machine that converts the moving energy of wind into mechanical energy and electrical energy), the turbine actually produces some useful energy (in the form of electricity).
Let's talk about what happens to get electricity from the wind. First of all, to change the wind energy to electricity, rotor blades spin the hub (center) of the turbine. Inside the turbine is an electric generator, which is a rotating machine that supplies an electrical output with voltage and current. The rotating action of the hub turns a magnet inside a coil of wire in the generator, producing electricity.
A turbine is basically a motor connected backwards. Rather than connecting a battery to the motor to make something move, a wind turbine is connected to the motor, and its movement generates electricity. You can measure how much electricity (voltage) is produced with a voltmeter.
Engineers design wind turbines that turn the kinetic energy of the wind (the movement of the wind) into mechanical or electrical power.
So, when does a wind turbine work best? The power produced by a wind turbine depends on elevation, wind speed and air temperature. Wind speeds of at least 23 kilometers (14 miles) per hour are required to generate electricity. Wind turbines are best located in areas in which wind speeds are 26-32 kph (16-20 mph) with the windmill at 50 meters (55 yards) high. That's pretty high up. The greater the wind speed, the more power generated. Think about it, when the wind blows harder, those papers move around even faster. If the wind speed doubles, the power available to a wind turbine increases by a factor of eight. That means the power doubles and doubles and doubles again!
Today, we are going to be engineers and create a wind turbine that converts wind energy connected to a motor into electrical energy (voltage). Then, we will measure how the wind speed affects our little wind turbine. This will help us understand what engineers need to know when designing and placing wind turbines in the best locations.
Vocabulary/Definitions (Return to Contents)
Procedure (Return to Contents)
Before the Activity
With the Students
Attachments (Return to Contents)
Safety Issues (Return to Contents)
Troubleshooting Tips (Return to Contents)
In advance of the activity, test the motors and voltmeters so that they are working accurately.
Assessment (Return to Contents)
Brainstorming: Have students engage in open discussion to think of how wind could be used as an energy source. Remind them that no idea or suggestion is "silly." All ideas should be respectfully heard. Write their ideas on the board.
Activity Embedded Assessment
Worksheet: Have students record their measurements and observations on the Wind Turbine Worksheet. After they have completed the worksheet, review their answers to gauge their mastery of the subject.
Question/Answer: Ask the students and discuss as a class:
Engineer Challenge Question: Ask the students to think about the following engineering design problem. Have them discuss their answers in teams and share their thoughts with the class.
Activity Extensions (Return to Contents)
Have students design their own set of blades, varying the size, shape, material and number. Have students attach these new blades to the motor and adjust them at various angles to produce the greatest voltage. Have them record their variables and results in a data chart they create during the activity. Have students share and compare their designs by giving brief engineering reports to the class.
Explore how wind velocity affects the amount of electricity produced by changing fan speeds.
Explore the Renewable Energy Living Lab for real wind measurement, energy collections systems and real-world data. See: http://extra.teachengineering.org/livinglabs/
Activity Scaling (Return to Contents)
References (Return to Contents)
Buy into Wind and Fight Global Warming! Clean Air-Cool Planet. http://www.cleanair-coolplanet.org/action/windbuilders.php Accessed October 20, 2005. (Good photographs of the first large utility-scale wind turbine being installed on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation)
Renewable Energy Lesson Plans. Infinite Power, Texas State Energy Conservation Office. http://www.infinitepower.org/lessonplans.htm Accessed October 19, 2005.
How Wind Turbines Work. Updated October 3, 2005. Wind & Hydropower Technologies Program, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy. http://www1.eere.energy.gov/wind/wind_animation.html Accessed October 19, 2005. (Great animation of a wind turbine generating electricity)
ContributorsXochitl Zamora-Thompson, Sabre Duren, Natalie Mach, Malinda Schaefer Zarske, Denise W. Carlson
Copyright© 2005 by Regents of the University of Colorado.
Supporting Program (Return to Contents)Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder
Acknowledgements (Return to Contents)
The contents of this digital library curriculum were developed under grants from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), U.S. Department of Education and the National Science Foundation (GK-12 grant no. 0338326). However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the Department of Education or National Science Foundation, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.