Tvindkraft: The Giant That Shook the World Turns 42

By Paul Gipe

Guinness Book of Records is considering a new category–world’s longest running or oldest megawatt-scale wind turbine. The question was thrown at me by Britta Jensen, one of the operators of Tvindkraft in northwest Jutland. She wanted to know if they qualified.

Indeed, they do.

Tvindkraft, the then giant wind turbine that was built by students, turns 42 years old this year. By my reckoning that not only makes it the oldest megawatt-scale wind turbine in the world, it makes it one of the oldest–if not the oldest–operating wind turbine anywhere.

It’s a helluva good story and I emphasize it in my latest book Wind Energy for the Rest of Us because it illustrates the book’s theme–we can do this ourselves. We don’t have to rely on the likes of Florida Power & Light, Electricité de France, or Eon to develop wind energy.

The Danes convincingly showed it could be done in the late 1970s on the west coast of the Jutland peninsula.

The three-blade downwind machine (downwind was all the rage in those days) went into operation in 1978. The 54-meter diameter turbine was a giant in its era.

The legendary turbine was built by students and young people. At a time when Boeing, Westinghouse, General Electric, Hamilton Standard, Kaman, Messerschmitt, and MAN had all failed to build a successful wind turbine, the political activists at Tvind did. That turbine became a beacon to citizens around the world and it remains a beacon more than four decades later.

The message delivered by the Tvind School so long ago was that wind energy was too import­ant to be left to aerospace giants, electric utilities, and even to national governments. They demon­strated that unlike nuclear power, which requires massive centralized institutions, wind turbines could be built and owned by common citizens. This is a message that still resonates today.

Kudos to Tvind, the school, and to Tvindkraft, its wind turbine.

Birthday Celebration for the World’s Oldest Operating Wind Turbine

Wind Power: a Danish Story-A review: There’s a lengthy interview in the video with a women engineer about the construction of what was then the world’s largest wind turbine at Tvind.