As wind-power historian Darrell M. Dodge puts it, “These mills were the ‘electrical motor’ of pre-industrial Europe. Applications were diverse, ranging from the common waterwell, irrigation, or drainage pumping using a scoop wheel, grain-grinding, saw-milling of timber, and the processing of other commodities such as spices, cocoa, paints and dyes, and tobacco.”
In 1891, Danish scientist Poul La Cour adapted the aerodynamic principles used in the most efficient European tower mills to generate electricity. Capable of producing 25 kilowatts, these four-blade airfoil wind generators spread throughout Denmark in the early 20th century—until big fossil-fueled steam plants put them out of business.
- More than a thousand factories have produced windmills in the United States. Many were small operations that failed after the first windstorm revealed the flaws in their designs.
- Henry Ford was inspired to create the automobile assembly line in part by a childhood visit to a windmill factory, which could turn out a complete windmill every three minutes.
- Early windmills used sails made of cloth, much like ships. In cold climates, wooden slats, which proved easier to handle in freezing conditions, replaced cloth sails.
- 500-900 | Persians develop first windmills for grinding grain and pumping water
- 1219 | China builds its earliest documented windmill
- 1854 | Daniel Halladay develops a working wind engine
- 1863 | US Wind Engine and Pump Co. begins operations in Batavia, Ill.
- 1888 | Charles F. Brush completes his 12-kilowatt wind turbine
- 1903 | Poul la Cour founds the Society of Wind Electricians
- 1931 | France’s George Darrieus patents the the “eggbeater windmill
- 1973 | Arab oil embargo leads to US Federal Wind Energy Program
- 1980 | World’s first wind farm is installed in New Hampshire