This is the second article in Wind Power Plants Course. This article discusses the development and early history of
Human existence without technology is unthinkable. Already in primaeval times, humans discovered how to adapt and exploit what nature had to offer, and started producing tools to satisfy their needs. Humans learnt how to modify materials in order to produce items such as ceramic pots, steel articles, plastic parts, medicines and much more. They also came up with possibilities of communication ranging, for instance, from cave paintings 20,000 years old through Greek torch telegraphy right up to modern cellular phones. So is the history of the wind turbine.
Not least of all, humans learned to harness the energy of fire, water and wind.
Development and History of Wind Turbine
This section describes important stages in the evolution of wind power plants
The first windmill
Utilization of wind energy began with sailing boats and ships more than 5000 years ago. As early as the 7th century A.D. the first windmills were built in Persia, or modern-day Iran, for the purpose of grinding grain.
A perspective of the mill from above (top view) reveals its operating principle.
The force of the wind turns the fabric-lined rotor horizontally, causing the vertical shaft to drive the millstone directly. The wind collecting walls guide the wind toward one half of the rotor wheel while the other half is in the lee. This prevents the wheel from blocking itself. The wind wheel’s position is fixed, i.e. suitable only for one particular wind direction.
This also applies to the more advanced tower windmills. Present in the Mediterranean region for the last 1000 years or so, these windmills have operated in regions with prevailing winds. In some countries, such windmills remain in use to this day. Furnished with sails, the wind wheel rotates on a brick tower and moves the millstone via a gear mechanism.
From the Middle Ages to the 18 century, German windmills were the most commonly found type of windmill in central and eastern Europe. This design was able to follow changes in wind direction, the entire mill house being rotated via the tail. The mill house is mounted on a substructure or base.
Windmills reached their most advanced stage in the 17th century with the development of the Dutch windmill which incorporated an elegant solution for following changes in wind direction. Only the roof crown on which the windmill vanes are mounted turns on rollers installed along the tower’s edge. As in the case of the German windmill, a tail is used to turn the superstructure, with a wind rose serving as orientation. The mill house as such remains fixed, which makes it more stable and capable of enlargement.
History of Modern Wind Turbine
So far, wind wheels have supplied energy for driving:
- mills of various types
- irrigation and drainage systems
- hammer, stamp and saw mills
- electric generators
Development of high-speed wind turbines with aerodynamically shaped vanes began about 50 years ago. These turbines achieve higher efficiencies than conventional, low-speed wind wheels.
The development of wind turbines is by no means over: Research projects involving wind power plants of various capacities are in progress worldwide.
We hope you’ve liked this article on wind energy conversion system. In this course, you’ll find more about the basic functioning of a wind turbine and how they convert wind energy into electric energy. There are other energy resources that have been discussed in detail. Continue this course on wind power plants to learn more.
You may also want to read how electric energy is transmitted from generating stations to consumers and Load flow analysis of a power network.