For large, commercial size horizontal-axis wind turbines, the generator is mounted in a nacelle at the top of a tower, behind the hub of the turbine rotor. Typically wind turbines generate electricity through asynchronous machines that are directly connected with the electricity grid. Usually the rotational speed of the wind turbine is slower than the equivalent rotation speed of the electrical network - typical rotation speeds for a wind generators are 5-20 rpm while a directly connected machine will have an electrical speed between 750-3600 rpm. Therefore, a gearbox is inserted between the rotor hub and the generator. This also reduces the generator cost and weight.

Commercial size generators have a rotor carrying a field winding so that a rotating magnetic field is produced inside a set of windings called the stator. While the rotating field winding consumes a fraction of a percent of the generator output, adjustment of the field current allows good control over the generator output voltage. Enercon has produced gearless wind turbines with separately excited generators for many years, and Siemens produces a gearless "inverted generator" 3MW model while developing a 6MW model. This gives better reliability and performance than gear based systems.

Older style wind generators rotate at a constant speed, to match power line frequency, which allowed the use of less costly induction generators. Newer wind turbines often turn at whatever speed generates electricity most efficiently. This can be solved using multiple technologies such as doubly fed induction generators or full-effect converters where the variable frequency current produced is converted to DC and then back to AC, matching the line frequency and voltage. Although such alternatives require costly equipment and cause power loss, the turbine can capture a significantly larger fraction of the wind energy. In some cases, especially when turbines are sited offshore, the DC energy will be transmitted from the turbine to a central (onshore) inverter for connection to the grid.