Creating Energy from Solar, Wind, and Water Sources

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: The Scientific Field of Meteorology

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:01 Energy Is Everywhere
  • 1:03 Wind Power
  • 2:58 Hydroelectric Power
  • 4:39 Solar Power
  • 6:52 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed
Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sarah Friedl

Sarah has two Master's, one in Zoology and one in GIS, a Bachelor's in Biology, and has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.

Much of what we do requires an energy supply. But where does this energy come from? Often we get it from natural sources, such as wind, water, and sunlight, and in this lesson, you'll learn how these can be converted to electricity for our everyday use.

Energy Is Everywhere

We are an energized society. Everywhere you look people are talking on cell phones, driving cars, using computers, cooking food, turning on lights, and so much more. Can you imagine trying to go an entire day without electricity? Even if you could put your phone away and read a book instead of watching TV, you'd have to shut down all of the traffic lights, use candles in your house, and either walk or bike to work.

And that's just YOU! Think of all the hospitals, power plants, and other facilities that require a constant supply of energy in order to keep people safe and healthy.

Energy sources that can be regenerated are great to take advantage of for our massive energy needs. In fact, we already utilize some of these resources, like wind, water, and the sun. Let's look more closely at each of these to see how we can benefit from them and in turn power our lives.

Wind Power

Windmills are becoming a common sight across the United States because they are incredible power-producing machines. The wind turbines you see in fields, along coasts, and even in people's backyards convert wind energy into electrical energy. The blades of the turbine spin as the wind blows, which then turns a mechanism inside the structure. This mechanism is attached to a generator, which is what produces usable electricity.

The wind is going to blow whether we use it for generating electricity or not. But there are ways to make windmills more efficient. For example, most modern windmills are about 130-325 feet tall. This is because higher up, wind speeds are faster and there's less turbulence.

Sometimes a household will have a single windmill on their property for their own power generation. But more often, you'll see a bunch of windmills hanging out together in a wind farm. Just like a large agricultural farm produces a lot of food, a wind farm produces a lot of energy from wind, so the more turbines, the better.

Wind power is one of the most efficient ways to generate electricity. This means that we get much more from it than what we put in: twenty to twenty-five times as much, in fact! This is more than nuclear energy and natural gas combined.

Wind power isn't perfect, though. First, you can only generate electricity from wind if you have wind in the first place. Some places are windier than others, so if you live in a fairly stagnant area, you may not have much luck. Those big rotating turbine blades also pose a hazard to flying animals, like bats and birds. However, they are not nearly as dangerous as moving vehicles, power lines, and window-covered buildings.

Hydroelectric Power

If you've ever stood in the middle of a strong current, you know just how powerful moving water can be. Hydroelectric power, which is electricity generated from flowing water ('hydro' means 'water'), provides about 7% of the power in the U.S. and about 19% of the world's total electricity production.

With this natural resource, electricity is most often generated through hydroelectric dams. A dam is constructed along a flowing waterway where there is a large elevation drop because as the water travels downhill, it picks up speed. This is why we often find dams in mountainous regions, like the Rockies, but not in flat places like the Southeast coast of the U.S.

As the water flows downhill and through the dam, turbines inside the dam are spun around by the moving water. This is very much like how a pinwheel is spun around in a good gust of wind. The turbine shafts are connected to a generator and the spinning of those turbines is what creates electricity. The electricity travels through power lines that are connected to the generator, sending it to homes, buildings, and other places.

The water itself is not affected by the turbines, but there are some issues with hydroelectric power production. For example, dams disrupt the natural flow of the waterway, which in turn disrupts the natural plant and animal communities both above and below the dam. However, hydroelectric power is quite reliable (as long as the water is flowing!) and does not generate pollution like coal plants do, so it remains a popular source of natural power.

Solar Power

Last, but definitely not least, is solar power. Sunlight might just be the most important form of natural energy on Earth. It keeps the planet warm, which makes it possible for life to exist, it provides food for plants when they photosynthesize, and it can also be used as an energy source for our own needs.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account