O uso da força do vento é conhecido desde a antiguidade, em barcos à vela e moinhos de vento. Acredita-se que os moinhos surgiram no século VII na Pérsia e logo foram difundidos pelo Oriente Médio e Ásia Central. Na Europa, o sistema foi usado a partir do século XI. Nesse período, a força do vento servia como energia mecânica para moer grãos, drenar terras alagadas e bombear água. 

Essa engenharia foi trazida pelos europeus quando começaram a colonização da América. Os primeiros avanços aconteceram nos Estados Unidos, na segunda metade do século XIX, com a fabricação dos moinhos multi-pás americano, feito de metal e com sistema de bombardeamento feito com bombas e pistões. Essa estrutura permitia o abastecimento de fazendas isoladas e extensas.

A geração de energia elétrica pelo vento foi usada pela primeira vez em 1887, pelo engenheiro escocês James Blyth. Com uma turbina com pá de tecido, o engenheiro usou da energia para iluminar sua casa. No ano seguinte, o inventor estadunidense Charles F. Bruch construiu um gerador para abastecer sua residência e laboratório. 

Na década de 1890, o inventor e meteorologista dinamarquês Poul la Cour descobriu que uma menor quantidade de pás geraria mais energia e, em 1897, conseguiu um financiamento do governo para construir uma turbina. Em 1904, ele fundou a Sociedade dos Eletricistas Eólicos

Os estudos e avanços tecnológicos foram mantidos. Na década de 20, foram fabricados geradores que conseguiam entre 1-3 quilowatts, e foram bem aceitos nos Estados Unidos. Em 1931, o francês Georges Darrieus desenvolveu a turbina de eixo vertical com aerófilos com 100 kW. Na Dinamarca, em 1956, Johannes Juul projetou a turbina com três pás e 200kW.

Apesar de já existir há mais tempo, a energia eólica só se popularizou nos anos 70, com a crise internacional do petróleo. Na ocasião, vários países passaram a se interessar nas turbinas, inclusive o Brasil. A busca por energias renováveis também deu um pontapé para que esse sistema recebesse mais apoio e investimento. 

Atualmente, a capacidade global atinge mais de 600 GW, sendo 221 GW  produzidos na China. No ranking de energia eólica estão os Estados Unidos, Alemanha, Índia e Espanha. 



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