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04/19/13

Photo of Wincharger Wind Turbines by Paul Gipe

One of the two most popular “windchargers” of the 1940s, it was considered the Chevrolet of wind turbines to Jacobs Cadillac.

Windchargers, the generic term, were wind turbines used for charging batteries at rural homesteads on the Great Plains prior to the Rural Electrification Act in the US during the Roosevelt administration. There were literally thousands of these turbines across the breadth of the Plains’ states.

Manufactured in Sioux City, Iowa by the Wincharger Corporation, early models used a two-blade, wooden rotor with bucket air-brakes. Gradually the turbine grew in size as rural residents demanded ever more powerful wind turbines.

Wincharger also built branded turbines for other companies, such as, Zenith.

The company was famous for its tall towers and its advertising of them with the slogan “the taller the tower the greater the power”. Their signature was a triangular plan form even in their guyed towers. In contrast, Jacobs used a square tower and never used a guyed tower.

Late models used four extruded blades, two of which were connected to centrifugal governor. Thus, two blades remained fixed in pitch, and two blades pitched to regulate overspeed.

I launched what would become a career in wind energy by chasing down these later models and their companions in the mid 1970s.


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