Wind power has been used as long as humans have put sails into the wind. For more than two millennia wind-powered machines have ground grain and pumped water. Wind power was widely available and not confined to the banks of fast-flowing streams, or later, requiring sources of fuel. Wind-powered pumps drained the polders of the Netherlands. In arid regions such as the American mid-west or the Australian outback, wind pumps provided water for live stock and steam engines.
With the development of electric power, wind power found new applications in lighting buildings remote from centrally-generated power. Throughout the 20th century parallel paths developed distributed small wind plants suitable for farms or residences, and larger utility-scale wind generators that could be connected to electricity grids for remote use of power. Today wind powered generators operate at every size between tiny plants for battery charging at isolated residences, up to multi-megawatt wind farms that provide electricity to national electrical networks.
Shown here (top right) is Charles F. Brush's 60 foot, 80,000 pound turbine that supplied 12kW of power to 350 incandescent lights, 2 arc lights, and a number of motors at his home for 20 years. It is believed to be the first automatically operating wind turbine for electricity generation and was built in the winter of 1887 - 1888 in his back yard. Its rotor was 17 meters in diameter. The large rectangular shape to the left of the rotor is the vane, used to move the blades into the wind. The dynamo turned 50 times for every revolution of the blades and charged a dozen batteries each with 34 cells.
For scale, note gardener pushing lawnmower underneath and to right of the turbine.