Wind Energy Generation: The Answer Is Blowin' in the Wind

In 1973, homesteaders thinking about practical wind energy generation had three options: buy an expensive new system, find and buy a still working used system, or build one from scratch.


| November/December 1973



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The wind generator, which generates electricity from moving air, is the device on the left. The wind pump, which pulls water from underground, is on the right.


PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

A little over a year ago, I wrote a short article for Organic Gardening and Farming magazine. In that piece, I described our life on a small New Mexico homestead ... and how we planned to utilize non-polluting sources of energy such as methane gas, solar heating, and wind generators.

The response to the article was nothing short of amazing. I received correspondence from all over the United States, Canada, France, and the Philippines ... and most letters requested further information about the alternate energy sources I had named.

It didn't take long for me to realize that my optimistic enthusiasm for my subject was a bit naive and premature ... I didn't really know any more about alternative sources of energy than the folks who were requesting further information yet I was being regarded as an expert in the field!

I answered the letters as best I could, then set out to learn as much as possible about the subject ... which has now become almost an obsession with me.Through the generosity of the Verde Valley School of Sedona, Arizona, I was able to make an 8,000-mile trip this spring with six students ... a trip during which we traveled across America seeking out information from the people who were experts in alternate sources of energy. The story of that journey, and the information we gathered, will—we hope—soon be published as a book. Until then, I'd like to share with MOTHER EARTH NEWS' readers some of the information we gathered about wind generators.

Nansen Was First

The first wind generator. as far as I'm able to discover, was built by the Arctic explorer Fridtjof Nansen in 1894. Icebound in the polar sea, Nansen rigged up a Holland-type windmill to drive a dynamo which charged batteries. He was enjoying electric lights in the vicinity of the North Pole when the houses of New York and London were still illuminated with kerosene and gas.

Sometime around 1935 or '36, the Wincharger Corporation of Sioux City, Iowa began production of wind-electric plants for use by farms and homesteads far from power lines. Wind generators were then used extensively in some rural areas up until the early fifties, when the Rural Electrification Administration at last brought power to most of the country. The Wincharger Corporation finally ceased production on all models except a small 200-watt unit in 1953 and the Jacobs Company of Minneapolis, Minnesota—another manufacturer of such equipment—stopped building its wind generator sometime around 1957.





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