Since the late 19th century, we have been harnessing the wind’s energy as a source for electricity. But where did it all start and how did it evolve into a sustainable solution to control global warming?
The very first windmill for producing electricity was built by Professor James Blyth of Anderson’s College, Glasgow, Scotland; three different turbine designs were tested by the professor and it was the last design which ended up powering his Scottish home for 25 years.
It was Professor Charles F. Brush in Ohio, USA who built a 12kW wind turbine to charge 408 batteries that were stored in his mansion’s cellar. The turbine ran for 20 years and had a rotor diameter of 50m and 144 rotor blades.
In Askoy, Denmark, Scientist Poul la Cour starts his wind turbine testing in an attempt to cultivate the wind to generate electricity for the people of rural Denmark. In 1903, he created the Society of Wind Electricians and in 1904 the society hosted the first educational course in wind electricity. La Cour was the first to conclude that fast rotating wind turbines with less motor blades are most effective in creating electricity.
The Darricus turbine, the very first vertical axis wind turbine is invented by Frenchman George Darricusand then in 1931 it was patented in the USA. In 1927, Marcellus and Joe Jacobs created the Jacobs Wind Factory in Minneapolis, USA, producing wind turbine generators. These are then used on farms to charge batteries and power lighting.
The world’s first megawatt wind turbine is built in the United States in Castleton Vermont, for the first time connecting electricity from a wind turbine to to the power grid in.
In Gedser, Denmark, Johannes Juul, a former student of Poul la Cour, built the Gedser turbine. His 200kW, three-bladed turbine, completed in 1956 inspired many future designs and forms the basis of most turbines used today. It operated until 1967 but was then redesigned in the mid 1970s by request of NASA.
Led by NASA, the US government starts research into big commercial wind turbines. Thirteen experimental turbines are put into operation and the research is used for many multi-megawatt technologies used today.
The world’s first wind farm is built in New Hampshire, It consists of 20 turbines, but it was considered an abject failure as the turbines broke down and the developers overestimated the wind resource.
In 1981, the 7.5mW Mod-2 was built by NASA and was followed in 1987 by the 3.2mW, two-blade wind turbine Mod-5B. Both turbines break records for diameter and energy output.
In 1991, the first offshore wind farm is created in Vindeby, Denmark. The wind farm consists of 11 450kW turbines.
The UK’s first onshore wind farm opened in Delabole, Cornwall. The farm has 10 turbines and produces enough energy to power 2,700 homes.
In 2003, in north Wales, the UK’s first offshore wind farm is opened. North Hoyle offshore wind farm is 7-8 km off the coast between Rhyl and Prestatyn and has 30 2mW turbines.
In 2007, in Stirling UK, installed capacity of wind power in the UK reaches 2gW, with the creation of Braes O’Doune wind farm in Scotland, with 36 2mW turbines creating 72mW of power.
In 2008, the EU sets the UK government an aim to raise the contribution of renewables to UK electricity to 20% by 2020 as part of an attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and strengthen energy security.
There are currently 923 operational wind power projects in the UK and 6,546 operational wind turbines.
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