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NASA Experimented with Wind Turbines at Plum Brook in the 1970s

Lewis (now NASA Glenn) Center Director Bruce Lundin (left), NASA Administrator Jim Fletcher (center), and ERDA Administrator Robert Seamans (right) activate the turbine in 1975.

On October 29, 1975 NASA Administrator James Fletcher and Robert Seamans, administrator of the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA) stood in a brisk Sandusky, Ohio field and depressed a large, ceremonial button to activate an experimental wind turbine at NASA’s Plum Brook Station (today, Armstrong Test Facility) for the first time. Slowly the two 62.5-foot blades began rotating as hundreds of visitors applauded and the Perkins High School band played “Wind Mills of Your Mind.” The 100-foot tall turbine was the largest U.S. wind turbine in 30 years and the nation’s first utility-sized turbine facility.

The Wind Energy Program was an effort by NASA and ERDA in the 1970s to investigate the feasibility of developing large wind energy systems. The Plum Brook wind turbine was the first of a series of increasingly powerful wind turbines built around the nation for the study.

During its decade of operation, the Plum Brook wind turbine demonstrated a number of concepts that were incorporated into future generations of wind turbines, and the impact of the NASA-ERDA program can be felt throughout the wind industry today.

Robert S. Arrighi​
NASA’s Glenn Research Center

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