Essentially, every wind energy system transforms the kinetic energy of the wind into mechanical or electrical energy. Obviously there are huge variations in size but all wind turbines work in the same way, the smallest just the same as its largest cousin. The overall configuration is identical.
How wind turbines work
Each system consists of a rotor (“blades”) which convert the wind’s energy into rotational shaft energy, a nacelle (“enclosure”) containing a drive train and a generator. So you can easily visualize how wind turbines work. The energy that moves the wind (“kinetic energy”) moves the blades. This energy in turn moves the drive train (“mechanical energy”). This energy is then turned into electricity (“electrical energy”) in the generators and then stored in batteries or transferred to home power grids or utility companies for use in the usual way.
Another visible difference which may lead to confusion as to how wind turbines work is the style of the rotors. There are two basic designs used commercially: the vertical axis or “egg beater” type which looks something like the top sails of old sailing clippers, and the horizontal axis or “propeller” type. These modern windmills look a lot different from the old water-mill type of turbine. They look more like airplane propellers. Most of the utility scale turbines in the market today are the horizontal type.
There is also experimentation under way to use other types of rotors. For instance, a Hong Kong company is producing electricity from a wind turbines the rotors of which are a string of little “propeller wheels” mounted on a rooftop. These look like children’s party windmills in little circles, all joined together. Although the shape is innovative, the underlying principles concerning wind generation is exactly the same.
When asking how do wind turbines work and receiving this simple explanation it is hard to imagine why they are not less expensive
The good news is that due to how wind turbines work there are great opportunities to make them cheaper once critical mass is reached and more people opt for wind power generated electricity. Mass production will bring down costs. But at the moment the material and installation costs are making them prohibitive to the average consumer who paradoxically needs cheap electricity the most. More info here