What keeps a wind turbine turning?
Yes, it’s a trick question.
You need a good breeze, of course – but there’s something else that’s essential, something that you might not associate with wind power. And that something, would be oil or natural gas. Yep. Wind power depends on the hydrocarbon.
That’s because inside those turbines are gears, axles, a generator – all sorts of moving, turning parts – and moving parts need lubrication – and lubrication means oil. Which shouldn’t be surprising. Petroleum products are in all sorts of other products, including other sources of energy.
And those moving parts? The windmill blades have been getting longer and longer, which is good for the work of catching the wind – but the only way to make blades like that, is through carbon-reinforced resins made from petrochemicals.
Wind power in the U.S. produces about 5.5% percent of our electricity these days, so long as you’ve also got the oil to keep those turbines lubricated and running (and to make those wind-catching blades).