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History of Wind Power

History of Wind Power

The history of wind power as it relates to windmills and wind turbines started around 200 B. C. in Persia (Iran). The first windmills were vertical axis wind turbines that were used for pumping water and grinding wheat and other grains.

wind power history

 China has also laid claims to having invented windmills around 2,000 years ago, but the first documented claims appear in the 1200’s. 

Around 250 A.D. the Romans introduced windmills into their culture and in the 700’s so did Afghanistan.

The Afghanistan windmills were also of the vertical axis style and cloth sails or reed matting was developed to catch the air. These windmills were used to grind corn and sugarcane plus draw water.

In the 13th century Holland started developing large horizontal axis windmills. These four-blade windmills were larger, carried more torque and wind speed and could do more work than other windmills previously designed.

The Holland windmills were also being used to grind grains and to drain part of the Rhine River. In the 19th century Denmark had an estimated 2,500 windmills and in the U. S. windmills were starting to be used to pump water.

The Halladay windmill of 1854 is one such example of this. The first windmill in the world built for electrical production was in 1887 in Scotland built by Professor James Blyth. A year later in 1888 in the U. S. Charles Brush of Cleveland, Ohio built a large wind turbine used to generate electricity.

In 1891, Poul la Cour developed a windmill in Askov, Denmark. The unique feature of this windmill is that its purpose was to electrolyze water and store the resulting hydrogen and oxygen.

In the 20th century wind energy took off in many different directions. In 1931 in Russia, the first utility scale wind turbine was developed. The 100kW Balaclava wind generator operated for two years along the Caspian Sea.

Also, in 1931 the Darrieus wind turbine was developed as a vertical axis turbine used to generate electricity. By the 1930’s farms across the U. S. were using small wind turbines to generate electricity for farmhouses, irrigation and other reasons since the electrical grid was slow in reaching many locations.

In 1941 another large scale wind turbine was developed in Castleton, Vermont. Oil shortages in the 1970s saw a resurgence in interest in wind energy and in the 1980s California started offering incentives for wind development.

Today, California produces twice as much wind energy as any other U. S. state, though the “Sahara of Wind Energy” is supposed to be in the Midwest region between North Texas and North Dakota.