5,000 BC - Wind energy used to propel boats along the Nile River.
200 BC - Simple wind-powered water pumps were used in China, and windmills with woven-reed blades were grinding grain in Persia and the Middle East.
11th Century - People in the Middle East were using windpumps and windmills extensively for food production. The Dutch developed large windpumps to drain lakes and marshes in the Rhine River Delta. Immigrants from Europe eventually took wind energy technology to the Western Hemisphere.
American colonists used windmills to grind grain, to pump water, and to cut wood at sawmills. Homesteaders and ranchers installed thousands of windpumps as they settled the western US.
1800s and early 1900s - Small wind-electric generators (turbines) were also widely used.
1930s - Power lines were built to transmit electricity to rural areas, the wind pump and small turbine use began to decline. Some ranches still used windpumps to supply water for livestock. Small wind turbines were used as electricity in remote and rural areas.
1970s - Oil shortages changed the energy environment for the US and the world. The oil shortages created an interest in developing ways to use alternative energy sources, such as wind energy, to generate electricity. The US federal government supported research and development of large wind turbines. In the early 1980s, thousands of wind turbines were installed in California, largely because of federal and state policies that encouraged the use of renewable energy sources.
1990s and 2000s - The US federal government established incentives to use renewable energy sources in response to a renewed concern for the environment. The federal government also provided research and development funding to help reduce the cost of wind turbines and offered tax and investment incentives for wind power projects. In addition, state governments enacted new requirements for electricity generation from renewable sources, and electric power marketers and utilities began to offer electricity generated from wind and other renewable energy sources (sometimes called green power) to their customers. These policies and programs resulted in an increase in the number of wind turbines and in the amount of electricity generated from wind energy.
1990 - Less than 1% The share of US electricity generation from wind in.
2008 - The US Department of Energy publishes its Energy Effiicency and Renewable Energy Report projection wind energy to grow to 20% of the electricity use in 2030.
2012 - The amount of wind energy produced in the US reaches the point of being able to power 15 million homes.
2016 - The 30-megawatt, 5-turbine Block Island Wind Farm started operating off the coast of Rhode Island in December 2016.
2018 - The share of US electricity generation from wind was nearly 7%. Incentives in Europe have resulted in a large expansion of wind energy use there. China is investing heavily in wind energy and now has the world's largest wind electricity generation capacity.