Back in 1972, Craig Toepfer, then a young college student at the University of Michigan, read an article about the old 1930’s wind generator companies in Mother Earth News, borrowed a truck and drove to South Dakota. Two weeks later, he was back home, with 5 “pretty rough” vintage wind generators in the bed of his pick-up.
Inspired by such visionaries as Buckminster Fuller, who was preoccupied with concerns about sustainability, and Marcellus Jacobs, a pioneer in wind energy, he thus began a life-long fascination with wind-generated electricity, collecting documents, historic photos, and a collection of wind turbines that at one point totaled around 100 machines.
Nearly forty years later, he’s collected this information, with help from a small group of other enthusiasts, on a website dedicated to chronicling the history of wind chargers, http://windcharger.org. Wind chargers are machines that use an aerodynamic propeller to convert wind energy to electric power for direct use or for storage in a battery for future use. A wind charger and battery make up a wind electric plant.
The wind charger site documents how Americans once successfully produced their own electricity with farm and wind electric power plants that he calls “magnificent.” By 1935, nearly one million rural homes, businesses, communities, churches, schools, resorts, and cabins were producing their own electric power with farm and wind electric plants. While the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 doomed the fate of those early renewable energy pioneers, Craig hopes his website will inspire a new generation to produce their own electricity in the new clean energy economy. He says, “You must make the commitment to spend your money purchasing solar and/or wind equipment to produce your own electricity. The solar and/or wind energy available at any persons home in the United States is more than adequate for producing 100% of the electricity needs of the home. The electric companies won’t do it.”
After a successful professional career in clean energy and transportation technology, a friend encouraged him to write a book and share his knowledge and understanding of the history of electricity and it’s relevance for the future. (His book, The Hybrid Electric Home – Clean, Efficient, Profitable was published last year and is widely available.) He is presently involved with writing, public speaking, educating, and participating in carefully selected projects helping others use solar and wind energy.