Chronology of Wind Energy Pioneers

Charles F. Brush

(1849-1929), one of the founders of the US electrical industry. Brush constructed a machine in the winter of 1887-88, now considered to be the first automated wind turbine for electricity generation. The scale of it was gigantic, with a rotor diameter of 17 m (50 ft.) and 144 rotor blades made of cedar wood. The turbine ran for 20 years and charged the batteries for Brush’s mansion. Despite its size, the turbine generated only 12 kW of electricity.

Poul la Cour

(1846-1908), Danish meteorologist. La Cour is considered to be the father of the modern wind industry. His first commercial wind turbine was installed after the First World War, during a general fuel shortage. He founded the first wind power research centre in Jütland, where he gave the first courses to wind power engineers, performed the first wind channel experiments, and published the first wind energy magazine.

Albert Betz

(1885-1968), German physicist. As the head of the Aerodynamic Institute in Göttingen, he formulated the so-called Betz law, which states that, independent of the design of a wind turbine, only 16/27 (or 59%) of the kinetic energy of the wind can be converted to mechanical energy. His book "Wind-Energie und ihre Ausnutzung durch Windmühlen" (Wind Energy and its Use by Windmills), published in 1926, gives a good account of the understanding of wind energy and wind turbines at that period.

Palmer Cosslett Putnam

(1910-1986), US engineer. Putnam developed the 1.25 MW Smith Putnam wind turbine in 1941. This turbine had a short life span and was shut down because of problems caused by inappropriate construction materials; the modern materials and quality standards now used had not yet been developed.

Ulrich W Hüttner

(1910-1990), German/Austrian engineer. He developed the 100 kW StGW-34 wind turbine, a milestone for modern wind turbine technology. It was installed in 1957 on a test field in the Swabian Alps.

Johannes Juul

(1887-1969), Danish engineer and student of Poul la Cour. He constructed the first 200 kW wind turbine in Denmark at Vester Egesborg in 1957. This turbine is the prototype of modern wind turbines.