Engineering Innovations: Wind Turbines

Wind Turbines and Windmills are ingenious devices that are able to convert wind power into useful mechanical work. This is achieved by using turbine blades or ‘sails’, to impart a rotational force to a main shaft. This, in turn, is used to do work, via a gear system, such as generating electricity through a generator or simply grinding flour !

The Persians were some of the first people to harness the power of the wind to do work when they began building early forms of windmills in Iran and Afghanistan in around the 7th Century AD. These early windmills consisted of sails radiating from a vertical axis within a building, with two large openings for the inlet and outlet of wind, diametrically opposite each other. The mills were used to directly drive single pairs of millstones without the use of gears. They were one of the first civilizations that were able to directly replace human beings with machines as a main source of power.

Windmills would become increasingly widespread throughout Europe during the Middle Ages, and remained in common use well into the 19th Century. The development of steam power during the industrial revolution would lead to the eventual decline of windmills.

The first ‘proper’ wind turbine as in a windmill designed to generate electricity, was built in Scotland in 1887 by Professor James Blyth to power the lighting in his holiday cottage !

The first commercial wind farm was established in 1980 and supplied 0.6 MW, produced by 20 wind turbines rated at 30 Kw each, installed Crotched Mountain in southern New Hampshire.

In the 20th and 21st centuries the Wind Turbine has become an important power source to supplement the national grid. An average onshore wind turbine with a capacity of 2.5–3 MW can produce more than 6 million kWh in a year – enough to supply 1,500 average homes with electricity. An average offshore wind turbine of 3.6 MW can power more than 3,312 average homes.

Perhaps with today’s energy crisis we should also start installing more home turbines?

Hope you have a good month

All the best



“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”

Albert Einstein

“Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs”

Henry Ford

ps If you have enjoyed this blog please feel free to pass on to others

About Mike Osborn CEng

A Chartered Engineer and member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers living in the UK with a passion for engineering design, technology and innovation, peppered with a little humour. Presently running a small engineering design & CAD drawing solutions business, serving mainly London and home counties.
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