A History of Wind Turbine Development

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Although people have been harnessing the power of wind for centuries – for instance the windmills of Sistan are thought to date from the Sassanid period in the 9th century – the earliest application of wind in the production of electricity came in 1887.

Designed and manufactured by Professor James Blyth of Anderson’s College, Glasgow (now Strathclyde University), the 33 feet high, cloth-sailed wind turbine was installed at his home in Kincardineshire. It is thought that his domestic turbine powered his home for some 25 years.

The Scottish engineer also provided wind powered electricity to the local Lunatic Asylum, Infirmary and Dispensary of Montrose, as well as offering the surplus electricity from his own home wind turbine for the street lighting in the area. However, this means of energy provision never caught on in the area, with many viewing electricity as a suspicious entity.

In 1887-88, Cleveland based engineer Charles Brush constructed an even larger turbine at his home. The machine was manufactured by his own engineering firm, and was in operation until 1900 when electricity became widely available from the central stations. Although Brush’s turbine reached a height of 60 feet, with rotor diameter of 56 feet, the machine only provided up to 12kW.

At the turn of the century, Danish scientist and teacher Poul la Cour began testing his wind turbine designs in an attempt to make electricity accessible to the rural communities in Denmark. Due to the decentralization of electricity supply in the country, this means of energy provision was not readily available to such populations.

Further developments in the evolution of wind turbine design include the creation of the Darrieus turbine in the 1920’s. The invention by Frenchman George Darrieus was the first vertical axis wind turbine, and is still in use today. It was a distinctive departure form the norm with its use of only two or three blades.

In the 1950’s, Denmark again took centre stage in the development of turbine technology, with the Gedser turbine built by Johannes Juul, a former student of Poul la Cour. His design was later taken on by NASA, who commenced research into commercial wind turbine production in the 1970’s.

Since then, wind turbine production has progressed rapidly, with numerous wind farms cropping up all over the world. In the UK, the Braes O’Doune wind farm in Stirling can produce up to 72mW of power. In addition to commercial applications, the market for domestic wind turbines is gaining in prominence, with a growing inclination to put turbines to the use for which they were originally intended; on farms and rural houses.

Source by Harvey McEwan