Wind Energy History

3,500 BC

Egyptians made the earliest known sailboats, using the wind to propel boats.

2,000 BC

Windmills may have been used to pump water, according to historical estimates.

200 BC

Windmills are used to pump water in China.


The Persians of present day Iran used windmills to grind grain into flour.


Wind power appears in Europe during the medieval period. Windmills were used to grind grain.


The first horizontal-axis windmills (like a pinwheel) appear in Western Europe to drain fields in the Netherlands and to move water for irrigation in France. Technological improvements allow for superior grinding and pumping.


Benjamin Franklin conducts an experiment using a kite, a key, and an approaching thunderstorm to help us understand electricity.


American settlers use windmills to pump water along the western frontier. By the late 1880’s, six million windmills had sprung up across America. Steel blades for windmills improve efficiency.


Charles F. Brush invents a large windmill which creates electricity in Cleveland, Ohio. It can produce 12 Kilowatts of electricity. Windmills start to be called “wind turbines.”

Early 1900s

Electric wind turbines appear all over Europe and are used to power rural homes and farms in America.


French inventor G.J.M. Darrieus develops a vertical axis turbine, consisting of slender, curved blades attached to the top and bottom of a rotating vertical tube. This design is often called an “eggbeater” shape turbine.


Russia constructs the first commercial power plant to use a wind turbine to produce electricity.


Large wind turbine (1,250 kW) is constructed in Vermont in response to fuel shortages. This supplied power to the local community for several years during World War II.


The world’s first offshore wind farm begins operating off the coast of Denmark.


The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) begins an oil embargo, causing oil prices to rise dramatically. High oil prices increase interest in alternative energy sources.


The U.S. designs several two-bladed turbine prototypes. One prototype, called the MOD-1, had a 2 megawatt capacity.


U.S. businesses are rewarded for using renewable energy with a tax credits. The federal tax credit for wind power was 25%.


California wind capacity exceeds 1,000 megawatts, enough to power 250,000 homes. Wind turbines were still very inefficient at this time.


Federal funding for wind power research has been declining through the 1980’s. The Department of Energy (DOE) funding for this research reaches a low point in 1989.


Growing public concerns about environmental issues such as air pollution and global warming encourage interest in renewable energy.


Wind energy capacity increases 37 percent, reaching 24,800 megawatts. The global wind power industry generates about $7 billion in business.


Europe has 70% of the world’s wind energy, due in part to laws encouraging growth in Germany, Denmark, and Spain.


An updated U.S. Energy Policy Act strengthens incentives for renewable energy sources. Global wind energy production continues to grow exponentially.


Global wind energy production exceeds 74,000 megawatts.


US wind energy capacity increases by an incredible 45%


Global wind energy installed capacity exceeds 94,000 megawatts.


Wind Power provides 2% of worldwide electricity usage.


Cape Wind approved by Federal Government as America's first offshore wind farm.