The wind has been a source of energy to mankind for centuries. Throughout history the power of the wind has been used to provide mechanical work to grind grain, pump water and the like. In Europe, large tower windmills could be found throughout the continent. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, windmills used to pump water dotted the western American landscape. In the late nineteenth century, as the new phenomenon of electricity became more widespread, some forward thinkers began to envision using windmills to produce electricity. The famous scientist Lord Kelvin, in a lecture in 1881, strongly urged for electricity to be derived from the widely available energy found in the wind . In 1888, the eccentric Charles Brush was the first to show that a large windmill could be used to generate electricity . With World War One came the need to design better propellers for fighter planes. This new technology was then applied to wind turbines to make the production of electricity from the wind more efficient. By the end of the 1920’s many companies had developed small wind turbines that were mainly used to provide electricity for individual rural homes that were out of reach of the still developing central grids in the cities. The most notable of these models was the Jacob’s model, invented by Marcellus Jacobs in the 1920’s. His wind turbine was the first widely used, efficient, low maintenance turbine used to generate electricity. They sold successfully well into the 1950’s .
Besides powering individual rural homes, wind power was not used on a wide scale during this time. It could not compete with the abundance, reliability and ease of use of electricity produced by fossil fuels. With the 1930’s came the Great Depression and with the new administration under Roosevelt came his New Deal policies and the first piece of legislation to significantly affect the development of wind power. In 1935, Roosevelt established the Rural Electrification Administration (REA), which was charged with the task of connecting rural locations to central power grids. In the process of connecting farms and rural homes to centralized power production, the REA made individual wind turbines unnecessary and the once common sight of small wind generators powering farms became more and more rare .
The development of wind power for widespread use was stalled until the mid 1970’s except for a few individuals’ efforts. In the 1940’s a large turbine was built to produce AC power by Palmer Putnam. It worked successfully for a while, but eventually broke down. Around the same time, Federal Power Commission engineer Percy Thomas worked on the design of a large wind power plant system. His design was solid but he was unable to get funding from congress to build the turbines . Not until the 1970’s would federal funding be available for research into wind technology.
In 1973, OPEC enforced an oil embargo, which sent the price of oil sky high and sent the United States scrambling to find new, alternative sources of energy. In 1974, congress passed the Solar Research Energy Act, which established the Solar Energy Research Institute (SERI). SERI was to work with government agencies, academics, and industry to develop new alternative solar energy sources. A large amount of the research conducted by SERI went into the development of wind power. From 1973 to 1988, $380 million dollars was spent designing, building and testing large prototype wind turbines . The first generation of wind turbines built by the program, named MOD0, MOD0A, and MOD1, were up and running but quickly failed. In 1976, the most tested prototype, the MOD2, was built and tested. It also had design flaws, but operated for several years and provided engineers with much valuable data. A handful of other large prototypes were built and tested, as well as several smaller models. By the mid 1980’s the program had been unsuccessful in developing a large, reliable wind power system. The program enjoyed a large budget under Jimmy Carter, but under Reagan’s administration, the lack of a reliable design combined with once again low price of oil, funding for the project dried up.
Another piece of legislation that opened the door for private development of wind power was the National Energy Act of 1978. One of the provisions of the act was the Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act (PURPA). PURPA required that utility companies purchase electricity from small energy producers. This made making a profit from wind power a possibility for many investors. In many cases, small to medium sized wind turbines were set to provide electricity for a home or business. Extra electricity was sold to the utility company, and the utility company was there to provide electricity should the wind falter. Utility companies met this with mixed reactions. 
Further legislation to help the development and use of wind power came when tax credits were established in 1981 to encourage investment in wind technology. This, along with state legislation encouraging wind power development, led to California having the most wind energy development in the 1970’s and ’80’s. While the federal program failed to produce large scale turbines, several private Dutch companies developed reliable medium scale turbines. Thousands of these Dutch turbines were put in place in California and began producing fair amounts of electricity. The tax credits expired in 1986 however, and with the exception of California, investors lost interest in wind power, and development stalled again.
In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, as energy prices increased and concerns about the environment grew, interest in wind turbine technology was revived. In the 1992 Energy Policy Act, tax credits were once again established for utilities that utilized wind power. More recently, these tax incentives were extended in the 2005 Energy Policy Act but not in the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, both enacted by President George Bush. More legislation that will further the development of wind power has been enacted already by President Obama. Included in the economic recovery legislation passed in February 2009 are measures to encourage and subsidize the development of wind energy and other renewable energy sources.
While the development of wind energy had a slow start, the issues of energy independence, global climate change, and pollution make wind power an increasingly attractive option. Already it is producing large amounts of electricity throughout the country. Without a doubt, wind power is sure to have an ever growing role in America’s energy production.
 Righter, Robert W. “Wind Energy in America.” Norman, OK. University of Oklahoma Press. 1996. pg 35-36
 Ibid. pg 42-50
 Ibid. pg 90-99
 Ibid. pg 111-118
 Ibid. pg 128-145
 Ibid. pg 157-158
 Ibid. pg 198-201
“American Wind Energy Association.” 4 April 2009.
Dodge, Darrel M. “Illustrated History of Wind Power Development.” 4 April 2009.