New ways of usingthe energy of the wind eventually spread around the world. By the11thcentury, people in the Middle East used windmills extensively forfood production. Returning merchants and crusaders carried this ideaback to Europe. The Dutch refined the windmill and adapted it fordraining lakes and marshes in the Rhine River Delta. When settlerstook this technology to the New World in the late 19thcentury, they began using windmills to pump water for farms andranches and later to generate electricity for homes and industry.
During World War II,the largest wind turbine known in the 1940s, a 1.25-megawatt turbinethat sat on a Vermont hilltop known as Grandpa's Knob, fed electricpower to the local utility network. Wind electric turbinespersisted in Denmark into the 1950s but were ultimately sidelined dueto the availability of cheap oil and low energy prices.
From 1974 throughthe mid-1980s, the U.S. government worked with industry to advancethe technology and enable development and deployment of largecommercial wind turbines. Large-scale research wind turbines weredeveloped under a program overseen by the National Aeronautics andSpace Administration to create a utility-scale wind turbine industryin the United States. With funding from the National ScienceFoundation and later the U.S. Department of Energy, 13 experimentalturbines were put into operation using four major wind turbinedesigns. This research and development program pioneered many of themulti-megawatt turbine technologies in use today. The large windturbines developed under this program set several world records fordiameter and power output.
While wind energysgrowth in the U.S. slowed dramatically after tax incentives ended inthe late 1980s, wind energy continued to grow in Europe, in part dueto a renewed concern for the environment in response to scientificstudies indicating potential changes to the global climate if the useof fossil fuels continues to increase.
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