Wind turbines face a paradoxical challenge: they must extract the wind’s kinetic energy while still allowing the air to pass. In this Minute Physics video, Henry gives a crash course on wind turbine efficiency, based on the restrictions of conservation of mass and conservation of energy. When the two are combined, they show that an ideal wind turbine reduces the wind speed by 2/3rds to achieve ~59% efficiency.
Of course, actual wind turbines are far from ideal. They’re typically placed in staggered configurations in which upstream turbines can disrupt the flow seen by those downstream. And real wind turbines have to contend with dust, bugs, and other grime that builds up on the blades and disrupts air flow and their efficiency. But calculations like this one are still important for engineers seeking to make these machines as efficient as they can be. (Image and video credit: H. Reich/Minute Physics)