Everything You Need to Know about Wind Energy Was Written in 1957!

By Paul Gipe

In the research for my new book, Wind Energy for the Rest of Us, I came across several unsung heroes of wind energy development. One of those was French engineer Louis Vadot.

Colleagues continue to send me pertinent documents on the early development of wind turbines. Since my book has gone to press, I can’t include these findings now, but I can post them here.

For example, French mill historian Etienne Rogier sent me a paper Vadot published in 1957. In the spring of that year French engineering journal Houille Blanche published an article on wind turbine design by Vadot that comprehensively covered what was known about wind turbine design at the time. Vadot described nearly every conceivable wind turbine configuration.

Houille Blanche is a French idiom, meaning literally white coal or hydroelectricity. Houille Blanche is a journal about hydro power. Vadot was a consultant to the hydroelectric turbine manufacturer Neyrpic. It was Neyrpric that was contracted by Electricité de France to build one of two experimental wind turbines before the utility decided to go nuclear.

To illustrate the significance of Vadot among wind turbine designers at the time, his paper contained an English translation of the text by the famous British engineer E. W. Golding, the author of The Generation of Electricity by Wind Power. (Golding’s 1955-book is required reading for Anglophones working in wind energy.)

Vadot’s paper and his professional association with Golding confirm one of the theses of my new book: Everything we needed to know about wind energy we knew by the 1950s and certainly by the early 1960s.

It is a continual source of frustration that inventors of what they think are new wind turbines, the journalists who tout these revolutionary new devices, and the politicians who listen to them have never heard of Vadot or Golding. Otherwise, they would know that there’s nothing new under the sun—or in the wind.

Vadot, Louis. “Étude synoptique des différents types d’éoliennes (A Synoptic Study of the Different Types of Windmills).” La Houille Blanche, 2 (1957) Mars-Avril. Pages 189-212. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/lhb/1957033