A windmill used to generate electricity is commonly called a wind turbine. The first windmills for electricity production were built by the end of the 19th century by Prof James Blyth in Scotland (1887), Charles F. Brush in Cleveland, Ohio (1887–1888) and Poul la Cour in Denmark (1890s). La Cour's mill from 1896 later became the local powerplant of the village Askov. By 1908 there were 72 wind-driven electric generators in Denmark from 5 kW to 25 kW. By the 1930s windmills were widely used to generate electricity on farms in the United States where distribution systems had not yet been installed, built by companies like Jacobs Wind, Wincharger, Miller Airlite, Universal Aeroelectric, Paris-Dunn, Airline and Winpower and by the Dunlite Corporation for similar locations in Australia.
Forerunners of modern horizontal-axis utility-scale wind generators were the WIME-3D in service in Balaklava USSR from 1931 until 1942, a 100 kW generator on a 30 m (100 ft) tower, the Smith-Putnam wind turbine built in 1941 on the mountain known as Grandpa's Knob in Castleton, Vermont, USA of 1.25 MW and the NASA wind turbines developed from 1974 through the mid 1980's. The development of these 13 experimental wind turbines pioneered many of the wind turbine design technologies in use today, including: steel tube towers, variable-speed generators, composite blade materials, partial-span pitch control, as well as aerodynamic, structural, and acoustic engineering design capabilities. The modern wind power industry began in 1979 with the serial production of wind turbines by Danish manufacturers Kuriant, Vestas, Nordtank, and Bonus. These early turbines were small by today's standards, with capacities of 20–30 kW each. Since then, they have increased greatly in size, with the Enercon E-126 capable of delivering up to 7 MW, while wind turbine production has expanded to many countries.
As the 21st century began, rising concerns over energy security, global warming, and eventual fossil fuel depletion led to an expansion of interest in all available forms of renewable energy. Worldwide there are now many thousands of wind turbines operating, with a total nameplate capacity of 194,400 MW. Europe accounted for 48% of the total in 2009.