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From early Windmills to large scale Wind Power Plants

Some of the earliest accounts of the wind being used to generate power were in Persia between 500 - 900 A.D. and were based on a vertical design. These early windmills were used for both pumping water and grinding grain.

The exact design details of these early models is lost to history, but many accounts passed down through the years have them being constructed with reeds or thin wood comprising the sails, that were mounted to a horizontal support to convert the wind energy into mechanical movement.

These early windmills rotated around a vertical shaft, which had the grinding wheel mounted directly to it and worked very well for its intended purpose. These early designs survived for hundreds of years as small refinements were made to the blade materials and styles.

Windmills energy being used in horizontal designs

Windmill generating domestic wind power Dutch windmill

The first windmills of a horizontal design started being used in Europe around 1300 A.D. and were constructed on a fixed tower that supported the windmill and provided shelter for the workers. The exact reason for the switch to a horizontal design was unknown, but thought to be related to the waterwheels being used in Europe at the time, which were also horizontal.

As it turns out the horizontal design had a much better efficiency converting the wind energy, since the vertical models of the time required the shielding of one-half of the rotation to be effective. These models continued to fuel much of the mechanical power generation for Europe for hundreds of years and eventually made their way to the U.S. and were used for everything from grain processing to water movement.

Domestic wind power eventually moved to electrical generation in the early 1900's and started with smaller horizontal designs. These early designs were used in rural areas with limited or no access to commercial power. As commercial power became more widespread the use of these smaller electrical generating windmills started to decline.

Domestic wind power generation on a larger scale

Larger scale wind turbines started to be deployed in the early 1970's on a large scale after earlier designs were modified to take full advantage of the wind energy information gathered from prototypes. It has really matured in the last 30 years to be a very viable and cost effective alternative to other forms of power generation. With technological developments and refinements in design, these large-scale wind turbines now generate a fair portion of the local power for many communities with more domestic wind power generation on the way. Even though there is still a lot of development being done in both design and materials, these current domestic wind power turbines are a financially viable alternative to other forms of power generation.

Another other nice advantage of the advancements made in these large-scale wind turbines is a resurgence in smaller, residential models based on some of the research. Some of these smaller, lighter and more efficient models are being used as an alternative way of augmenting the power needs for many homeowners. These residential models provide a great way for most homeowners to offset a portion of their energy bill each month.

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Historic wind energy information from windmills in Persia to large-scale wind power parks