Georges Jean Marie Darrieus

Georges Jean Marie Darrieus was one of France’s great engineers. While he is mostly known in the English-speaking world for his patent on vertical-axis wind turbines (VAWTs), he was a prolific inventor in a number of fields from ballistics to turbo-alternators.

Darrieus installed several experimental wind turbines for his employer, Compagnie Electromécanique (CEM) at Bourget outside Paris. These wind turbines were all what we now call “conventional” wind turbines, and all were downwind of the tower. Moreover, Darrieus installed these turbines in the late 1920s– after he filed his famous patent on VAWTs.

There is no evidence that Darrieus ever built a “Darrieus” wind turbine. We do know, writes historian Etienne Rogier, that during WWII Darrieus conducted experimental wind tunnel tests on a scale model three-blade, H-configuration rotor.

Darrieus was a man ahead of his time, but not necessarily for the invention that bears his name: The vertical-axis wind turbine. The invention of the “eggbeater” and straight-blade, vertical-axis wind turbine were a minor part of his vast body of work over a long lifetime of achievement. Like many other wind turbine designers in the decades since, Darrieus in the end opted for a conventional, horizontal-axis wind turbine.