Windmills

History of Wind Energy

Image Courtesy of NREL

As early as 5000 B.C. people traveled along the Nile River with boats propelled by wind energy. By 200 B.C., water was being pumped by simple windmills in China, while grain was being grinded by vertical-axis windmills with woven reed sails in Persia and the Middle East. Windmills were being used extensively in the Middle East for food production by the 11th century, which then influenced merchants and crusaders to carry this idea back to Europe.

The Dutch adapted a new method of the windmill and used it to drain lakes and marshes in the Rhine River Delta. In the late 19th century, this technology was brought to the New World by settlers who then pumped water to farms and ranches and later generated electricity for homes and industry. In Europe and later in America, industrialization led a steady decline in the use of windmills. However, it also sparked the development of larger windmills in order to generate electricity. These windmills became known as wind turbines which appeared in Denmark as early as 1890.

Electric power was fed to the local utility network for months during WWII by the largest wind turbine known in the 1940′s. This wind turbine sat on a Vermont Hilltop known as Grandpa’s Knob and was rated at 1.25 megawatts in winds of about 30 mph.

Popularity of wind energy usage has always fluctuated with the price of fossil fuels. Interest in wind turbines waned after World War II when fuel prices fell. But by the 1970s, when price of oil escalated, the interest in wind turbine generators rose proportionately. For many years to come, the fastest growing energy source of wind energy will power industry, business and homes with clean renewable electricity.

From the Department of Energy