Make a pinwheel to see how a very basic turbine works, and then use it to create electricity! If you don’t have the electrical components, you can still do the first part of this project to see how wind can create mechanical force.
Experiment with wind power
When you attached the motor to the pinwheel and put it in front of the fan, you transformed the motor into a generator, which converts mechanical force (the spinning of the pinwheel) to electricity. It does this with the help of a magnet inside the motor. When you connected the wires of the motor to the light bulb, you made a complete electrical circuit, allowing the electricity to flow from the motor through the bulb and back again.
To fully power the bulb, your turbine would need to produce 1.5 volts. If the bulb just glows dimly, it means the turbine is producing less than 1.5 volts. Real wind turbines have very large blades, so they have gear boxes that increase the rotational speed (how fast the shaft spins).
For example, the main shaft might turn only 22 times per minute, but the gears in the gearbox can use that power to make a smaller shaft turn up to 1500 times per minute, creating a lot more voltage!
More experimentation: If you have a digital multimeter, you can measure the amount of voltage and current (amps) produced by your mini turbine. Experiment with larger or smaller pinwheels, or make individual blades like a modern wind turbine. Which design can produce the most voltage? Which produces the most amperage? When would you want more amps and when would you want more volts? What size of pinwheel causes the light bulb to glow the brightest? Can you use your turbine to power another motor? To lift weights?
Wind Energy: Strange as it may seem, wind energy comes from that ultimate power source, the sun. (In fact, almost all sources of energy originate with the sun!) As the sun shines on the surface of the earth, it heats the land faster than the oceans. The warm air above the land rises, and when it does so cooler air from over the water rushes in to take its place—this is wind! Meanwhile, the rising hot air cools and descends back down over the water.