Skip Navigation to main content U.S. Department of Energy Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Bringing you a prosperous future where energy is clean, abundant, reliable, and affordable
Wind Program
About the ProgramResearch and DevelopmentDeploymentFinancial OpportunitiesInformation ResourcesHome
New England Wind Forum


Department of Energy Issues Renewable Energy and Efficient Energy Projects Solicitation

April 21, 2014

New NREL Study Examines Production Tax Credit Implications

April 21, 2014

ACORE Publishes Renewable Energy Outlook Report

April 21, 2014

More News

Subscribe to News Updates


Clean Energy Solutions Center Webinar: The State of Play of the Global Wind Industry and a Five-Year Projection

April 28, 2014

Stakeholder Engagement and Outreach Webinar: The 2014 Farm Bill's Renewable Energy for America Program

May 21, 2014

More Events

generic image for publication

Implications of a PTC Extension on U.S. Wind Deployment

April 1, 2014

More Publications

Sign up for the New England Wind Forum Newsletter.

New England Wind Forum

About the New England Wind Forum

New England Wind Energy Education Project

Historic Wind Development in New England
First Large Scale Windmill
1970s OPEC Oil Embargo Sparks Renewed Interest
Age of PURPA Spawns the Wind Farm
An Industry in Transition
More New England Wind Farms
Modern Wind Turbines
History Wrap Up

State Activities

Projects in New England

Building Wind Energy in New England




Bookmark and Share

Historic Wind Development in New England

Wind has been an important energy source for centuries. In the United States, mechanical windmills provided as much as 25% of all non-transportation energy by the end of the 1800s. New England has relied on the wind from its early days, from powering seafaring commerce to grinding grain in the windmills of Cape Cod, several of which still stand. Some 6 million windmills across the nation were used for small-scale generation of electricity from the 1920s until the 1950s, when the U.S. government's rural electrification programs successfully reached remote areas. By the early 1970s, the number of windmills operating in the U.S. had dwindled to 150,000 — used mostly for watering livestock in remote areas of the western United States — although their widespread use continued elsewhere in the world.

The New England region holds a special place as the birthplace of the modern U.S. wind-to-electricity industry, and sports a number of significant "firsts." These range from the first large-scale electricity-producing windmill (the biggest in the world by far at the time), and the world's first "wind farm." The region has seen a number of other attempts at modern commercial-scale wind development since then, some more successful than others. Today's flurry of wind development activity includes pioneering attempts to develop the country's first off-shore wind farm, which would also be the country's largest wind farm. In the historical pages on the left, we describe these firsts and the rest of the historical experience with wind power development in New England.

Printable Version

Skip footer navigation to end of page.