A turbine is a machine in which the kinetic energy of a moving fluid causes a series of blades to spin, thus converting kinetic energy to mechanical power. The fluid may be a liquid such as water or a gas such as air, natural gas, or steam. The blades are connected to a shaft so that the motion of the blades spins the shaft, and this can be used to perform work such as spinning a generator

Turbines may be powered by a variety of sources of kinetic energy including flowing water, steam, flowing air (wind), or by a mixture of hot air and gas created by combusting a fuel such as natural gas or petroleum. Common turbines used in today’s electric industry include:

  • Water turbines for hydropower
  • Wind turbines
  • Steam turbines for coal, natural gas, petroleum, biomass, or nuclear power plants
  • Combustion turbines for natural gas, petroleum, or biogas power plants
  • Combined-cycle gas turbines for natural gas, petroleum, or biogas power plants


Gas turbine showing blades and rotor


A Pelton wheel water turbine


A steam turbine


A wind turbine under construction, the blades are attached to a shaft within the nacelle, which is the housing to the right of the blades. The nacelle contains the generator, gear box, drive train and other components.