Wind has been used as a source of energy for more than 1500 years. In times when other sources of energy were unknown or scarce, wind energy represented a successful means for industrial and economic development. Wind energy became a marginal source once cheaper, easier to exploit and easily obtainable sources of energy became available. From the point of view of the contribution of wind energy to economic development, one can divide the history of wind energy into four overlapping time periods (see Figure 1.1). Except in the first period, the emphasis here is the generation of power by wind:
- 600–1890: Classical period. Classic windmills for mechanical drives; more than 100,000 windmills in northwestern Europe. The period ended after the discovery of the steam engine and because of the ready availability of wood and coal.
- 1890–1930: Development of electricity-generating wind turbines. The development of electricity as a source of energy available to everyone leads to the use of windmills as an additional possibility for generating electricity. Basic developments in the field of aerodynamics. The period ended due to cheaper fossil oil.
- 1930–1960: First phase of innovation. The necessity of electrifying rural areas and the shortage of energy during the Second World War stimulated new developments. Advances in the field of aerodynamics. The period ended because of cheaper gas and fossil oil.
- From 1973: Second innovation phase and ...