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Renewable Energy Industries: A Research Guide

Wind Energy Industry

Carol M. Highsmith, photographer. Wind turbines dominate the sky over the soybean fields of Franklin County, Iowa. 2016. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Wind power has been used for thousands of years to pump water and grind grain. Its first recorded use as a source of electricity was in 1887, when James Blyth, a Scottish physicist built a wind turbine to power the electric lights in his cottage in east Scotland.1 That same year, Charles F. Brush created a wind generator in his backyard in Cleveland, Ohio to light his home.2

Wind turbine manufacturers, wind developers, and utility companies play key roles in the wind power industry. The first commercial wind turbines in America were manufactured in the 1920s by Marcellus and Joseph Jacobs, who later incorporated as the Jacobs Wind Electric Company.3 Currently, Denmark's Vestas company leads the global market share of wind turbine manufacturers, although the China Shenhua Energy Company has the highest revenue of any wind turbine manufacturer in the world.4 Wind developers are companies that scout locations, purchase wind turbines, and build wind farms.5 They can either continue to operate the wind farms, or sell them to larger power companies. Wind farms that can generate one or more megawatts of energy capacity are known as utility scale wind, because wind farms of this scale require a lot investment so they are built by either large wind developers or utility companies. Wind farms that generate less than one megawatts are known as distributed generation, and are usually built by small wind developers to supply local energy or, depending on state laws, sell to the grid.6


The following titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are included when available.

Online Resources

The following links are to government and industry websites and documents related to wind power. 


  1. Trevor J. Price, "James Blyth - Britain's First Modern Wind Power Pioneer," Wind Engineering 29, no. 3 (2005): 191-200. Back to text
  2. Robert W. Righter, Wind Energy in America (University of Oklahoma Press,1996), 43. Back to text
  3. Robert W. Righter, "Reaping the Wind: The Jacobs Brothers, Montana's Pioneer 'Windsmiths'." Montana: The Magazine of Western History 46, no. 4 (1996): 38-49; Richard Rhodes, Energy: A Human History (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2019), 328. Back to text
  4. Madhumitha Jaganmohan, "Wind Turbine Manufacturers Ranked by Revenue 2019," Statista, January 27, 2021. Back to text
  5. Windustry, "Chapter 2: Development Overview and Checklist External," Community Wind Toolbox. Back to text
  6. Kush Patel, Wind Power in the US, Report 22111D, IBIS World, August 2020. Back to text