Wind Turbines

A wind turbine is a rotating machine that converts the kinetic energy in wind into mechanical energy. If the mechanical energy is used directly by machinery, such as a pump or grinding stones, the machine is usually called a windmill. If the mechanical energy is then converted to electricity, the machine is called a wind generator, wind turbine, wind power unit (WPU) or wind energy converter (WEC).

This article discusses electric power generation machinery. Windmill discusses machines used for grain-grinding, water pumping, etc. The article on wind power describes turbine placement, economics, public concerns, and controversy. The wind energy section of that article describes the distribution of wind energy over time, and how that affects wind-turbine design. See environmental concerns with electricity generation for discussion of environmental problems with wind-energy production.

Wind machines were used for grinding grain in Persia as early as 200 B.C. This type of machine was introduced into the Roman Empire by 250 A.D. By the 14th century Dutch windmills were in use to drain areas of the Rhine River delta. In Denmark by 1900 there were about 2500 windmills for mechanical loads such as pumps and mills, producing an estimated combined peak power of about 30 MW. The first windmill for electricity production was built in Cleveland, Ohio by Charles F Brush in 1888, and in 1908 there were 72 wind-driven electric generators from 5 kW to 25 kW. The largest machines were on 24 m (79 ft) towers with four-bladed 23 m (75 ft) diameter rotors. Around the time of World War I, American windmill makers were producing 100,000 farm windmills each year, most for water-pumping.[1] By the 1930s windmills for electricity were common on farms, mostly in the United States where distribution systems had not yet been installed. In this period, high-tensile steel was cheap, and windmills were placed atop prefabricated open steel lattice towers.

A forerunner of modern horizontal-axis wind generators was in service at Yalta, USSR in 1931. This was a 100 kW generator on a 30 m (100 ft) tower, connected to the local 6.3 kV distribution system. It was reported to have an annual capacity factor of 32 per cent, not much different from current wind machines.

The very first electricity generating windmill operated in the UK was a battery charging machine installed in 1887 by James Blyth in Scotland. The first utility grid-connected wind turbine operated in the UK was built by the John Brown Company in 1954 in the Orkney Islands. It had an 18 metre diameter, three-bladed rotor and a rated output of 100 kW.