Historical Background of the Wind Power

History of Wind Power.

We believe that some kinds of windmills were used in China and Japan 3.000 years ago, but the first well-documented windmill in the world was built in Persia around the 10th Century BC. Although it was very rudimentary (a mud cabin in order to increase the wind force on a side of the mat), it was enough to grind grain. However, it was in Europe where windmills had the most important improvements from the 12th Century with horizontal axis, cogwheels, and even sometimes the whole mill could be turned into the wind direction by using levels or oxen.

Those advantages let Medieval people to relieve the feudal oppression (wind was free instead watermills), and windmills were very popular along the countryside in Netherland, England, Germany, France, and of course, Spain. In addition, the wind wheel also has a very important role to colonize the prairies in America by pumping water to tanks in 18th and 19th centuries.

With the advances on the aircraft industry and especially on the Electricity field, completely different kinds of windmills were developed. In 1891, the Danish Poul La Cour invented the first wind turbine for electric power production and new improvements arose very fast. Big wind turbines, (ie: Grandpa’s Know with its 53m diameter and 1250 kW Power), vertical axis (the Savonius rotor and Darrieus turbine). Some companies took advantages of this progresses and one example could be the radio powered with Wind Energy in 1930s which was used by farmers in the countryside who did not have access to the urban grid. However, this fast technical growth was declined after the WWII.

Paul La Cour's prototype.

Granpa's Knob.

Wind business in 1930's.

The oil crisis in the 1970s, the Nuclear accidents in 1980’s, and the awareness on the greenhouse gases in 1990’s helped to revive the interest on the Wind Energy and two different point of views arose to develop the wind industry:

–          Push Model: The Government of Sweden, Germany, UK, Netherland and US invested large amounts on R&D in Power and Aircraft companies in order to develop large wind turbines which were considered necessary to make a significant contribution to power production. However, some technical problems blocked a high performance.

–          Pull Model: Denmark introduced investment for wind turbines and a law whereby the state guaranteed a good price for the wind-generated electric power. Fast results appeared on small, simple, and durable wind turbines for farms (20-30 kW) in 1980’s. Hence, manufactures had faithful customers and they extend their products to people who were conscious with the environment and to international markets (Germany, U.S.) In addition, people formed wind power cooperatives to buy turbines and wind farms that encouraged even more the wind industry. Furthermore, the link between the research centre in Risoe and wind manufactures made possible to improve the performance and power of wind turbines in a short time.

Nowadays, the rapid market growth has been concentrated in some areas like Denmark, Germany, Spain and some states in the US. However, it is expected that countries as Canada, Australia, Brazil and the rest of Europe will live the same “wind rush”.

Sources: “Wind Power in Power Systems” by Thomas Adckermann. “Developing Wind Power Projects” by Tore Wizelius.


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