700-900 AD
The first windmills appeared in Persia. They were called a "panemone" design and featured vertical sails made out of bundles of reeds or wood. These windmills were used to grind corn and to pump water.
A very different type of windmill is seen all over Europe - the post mill. The mill that houses the machinery is mounted on a single vertical post around the which the sails are brought into the wind. This mill was frequently used by the middle class. (Photo: Modern post windmill Credit: Michael Reeve)
The Dutch introduced a 'tower' mill. It was a mult-story tower with floors for grainding grain, removing chaff, storage and living quarters for the windsmith and his family.
1850 - mid 20th century
About six million small wind machines are installed in North America. They are primarly used to pump water. (Photo: Old windmill in South Dakota from 1880's Credit: Patrick Bolduan)
Professor James Blythe built the first windmill to produce electricity. It was 10 metres high and located in the garden of his holiday cottage in Kincardine, Scotland. He used it to power his lights. He offered the town of Kincardine the excess electricity to power the town's main streets but town turned him down believing electricity to be "the work of the devil." (Photo: Blythe windmill in 1891)
Charles Brush built the first automatically operating wind turbine in Ohio. It produced 12 kw of power and was nearly 20 metres high. It had 144 blades and powered the lights in his laboratory. It as abandonned in 1908. (Photo: Brush Windmill)
The brothers Jacobs opened a factory in Minneapolis to produce wind turbines for farm use. Over the next 30 years, they built about 30,000 turbines. One was used on the Richard Byrd expedition to Antarctica. The windmills are largely used to generate electricty on US farms that were not connected to the grid. The company is still building turbines today.
The first megawatt-size turbine (called Smith-Putman) was built in Granpa's Knob in Castleton, Vermont. It generated 1.25 MW but only operated for 1100 hours before one of the blades failed. The project, which cost $1 million was cancelled because the manufacturer Morgan Smith, didn't believe that wind turbines would be profitable. (Photo: Smith-Putman turbine Credit: US Govt)
It was over 30 years before the construction of another megawatt-size turbine was constructed. An international school by the name of Tvind built a turbine with a 53 metre tower and 3 blades of 27 metres in length to power their buildings. The students enlisted help from aeronautics specialists from Germany. The turbine is the forerunner of the modern three blade design and still runs today. (Photo: The Tvind windmill today, painted as an art installation)
Quebec Hydro starts a wind power program with 40kw vertical-axis turbines. They are known as egg beaters because of their unique physical appearance.
1975 - 1988
In response to the oil crisis, the U.S. government, led by NASA researches large commercial scale wind turbines. Several versions of large scale turbines were built and the research finding stimulated the commercial wind industry. (Photo: 3 cluster of windmills in Goodnoe Hills Washington Credit: US Govt)
The world's first wind farm of 20 turbines is built in New Hampshire.
The first offshore wind farm is installed in Denmark. This allowed turbines to become bigger. Intial offshore turbines are sunk into the ground with monopile foundations.
The first Canadian wind farm is built at Crowley Ridge in Alberta.
Rising concerns over energy security, global warming and fossil fuel depletion stimualtes the wind power industry to grow at a rate of 30% per year. Between 2000 and 2010 wind power capacity increased from 17.4 to 197.6 MW. China, United States and Germany are the top wind power countries and Canada is ranked at number 9.
The world's first operational deep-water large capacity floating wind turbine is installed in the North Sea off Norway. It costs $62 million to build and deploy. It's more like a floating oil rig than a fixed-bottom shallow-water installation.(Photo: Installation of the Haywind wind turbine Credit: Lars Christopher)
Canada's first offshore wind farm is planned for coastal BC. One hundred and ten turbines will produce 396 MW of power.


Also on CBC