More modern American windmills have high towers of light steel girders; at the top is a wheel with many sheet-metal concave and "warped" vanes (sails) about 4 ft (1.2 m) long. The wheel is kept automatically facing the wind by a broad tail geared to a shaft. They have been widely used for pumping water in rural parts of the United States. Such windmills can also be used to generate about one kilowatt of elecricity.
Larger windmills, such as the modern propellerlike wind turbines, can have rotors (the blade assembly) that span 200 ft (60 m) or more. These wind turbines, often joined together in wind farms, can produce 1.5 MW or more of electricity and can serve as a significant source of electric energy in plains and coastal areas (including offshore locations). Wind turbines have been most extensively used in Europe, where Denmark, for example, is undertaking to generate 50% of its electricty using wind power by 2030. As many as 2,000 small wind turbines are used in Inner Mongolia to provide local electric power to nomadic people.
Fixed windmills, oriented to the prevailing wind were, for example, extensively used in the Cyclades islands of Greece. The economies of power and transport allowed the use of these 'offshore' mills for grinding grain transported from the mainland and flour returned. A 1/10th share of the flour was paid to the miller in return for his service. This type would mount triangular sails when in operation.
In North Western Europe, the horizontal-shaft or vertical windmill (so called due to the dimension of the movement of its blades) dates from the last quarter of the 12th century in the triangle of northern France, eastern England and Flanders. Joseph Needham states that the earliest known reference came in 1191 by a Dean Herbert of East Anglia, who supposedly competed with the mills of the abbey of Bury St Edmunds. These earliest mills were used to grind cereals. The evidence at present is that the earliest type was the post mill, so named because of the large upright post on which the mill's main structure (the "body" or "buck") is balanced. By mounting the body this way, the mill is able to rotate to face the (variable) wind direction; an essential requirement for windmills to operate economically in North-Western Europe, where wind directions are various. By the end of the thirteenth century the masonry tower mill, on which only the timber cap rotated rather than the whole body of the mill, had been introduced. In the Netherlands these stone towerlike mills are called "round or eight-sided stone stage mills, ground-sailers (windmills with long blades/sails reaching almost down to the ground), mound mills, etc." (Dutch: ronde/achtkante stenen stelling molens, grond-zeilers, beltmolens, etc.). Dutch tower mills ("torenmolens") are always cylindrical (such as atop castle or city wall towers). Because only the cap of the tower mill needed to be turned the main structure could be made much taller, allowing the blades to be made longer, which enabled them to provide useful work even in low winds. Windmills were often built atop castle towers or city walls, and were a unique part of a number of fortifications in New France, such as at Fort Senneville.
The familiar lattice style of windmill sails (also called "common" sails) allowed the miller to attach sailcloths to the sails (while applying a brake). Trimming the sails allowed the windmill to turn at near the optimal speed in a large range of wind velocities.
The fantail, a small windmill mounted at right angles to the main sails which automatically turns the heavy cap and main sails into the wind, was invented by Edmund Lee in 1745, in England. The smock mill is a later variation of the tower mill, constructed of timber and originally developed in the sixteenth century for land drainage. With some subsequent development mills became versatile in windy regions for all kind of industry, most notably grain grinding mills, sawmills (late 16th century), threshing, and, by applying scoop wheels, Archimedes' screws, and piston pumps, pumping water either for land drainage or for water supply. In 1772, Scottish millwright, Andrew Meikle developed the spring sail made from a series of connected parallel shutters that could be opened or closed according to windspeed. To do this the sails had to be stopped, but the sails also incorporated a spring which allowed the shutters to open a little more to prevent damage if the wind suddenly strengthens. In 1789, Stephen Hooper invented the roller reefing sail, which allowed automatic adjustment of the sail whilst in motion. In 1807, William Cubitt a Norfolk engineer, invented a new type of sail, known there on as patent sails, using a chain and a rod that passed through the centre of the windshaft. These sails had the shutters of Meikle's spring sails and the automatic adjustment of Hooper's roller reefing sails. This became the basis of self-regulating sails. These avoided the constant supervision that had been required up till then.
With the industrial revolution, the importance of windmills as primary industrial energy source was replaced by steam and internal combustion engines. Polder mills were replaced by steam, or diesel engines. The industrial revolution and increased use of Steam and later Diesel power however had a lesser effect on the Mills of the Norfolk Broads in the United Kingdom, these being so isolated (on extensive uninhabitable marshland), therefore some of these mills continued use as drainage pumps till as late as 1959. More recently historic windmills have been preserved for their historic value, in some cases as static exhibits when the antique machinery is too fragile to put in motion, and in other cases as fully working mills.
See Flood control in the Netherlands for use of windmills in land reclamation in the Netherlands.
Windmills feature uniquely in the history of New France, particularly in Canada, where they were used as strong points in fortifications. Prior to the 1690 Battle of Québec, the strong point of the city's landward defenses was a windmill called Mont-Carmel, where a three-gun battery was in place. At Fort Senneville, a large stone windmill was built on a hill by late 1686, doubling as a watch tower. This windmill was like no other in New France, with thick walls, square loopholes for muskets, with machicolation at the top for pouring lethally hot liquids and rocks onto attackers. This helped make it the "most substantial castle-like fort" near Montreal.
In the United States, the development of the water-pumping windmill was the major factor in allowing the farming and ranching of vast areas of North America, which were otherwise devoid of readily accessible water. They contributed to the expansion of rail transport systems throughout the world, by pumping water from wells to supply the needs of the steam locomotives of those early times. Two prominent brands were the Eclipse Windmill developed in 1867 (which was later bought by Fairbanks-Morse) and the Aermotor, which first appeared in 1888 and is still in production. The effectiveness of the Aermotor's automatic governor, which prevents it from flying apart in a windstorm, led to its popularity over other models. Currently, the Aermotor windmill company is the only remaining water windmill manufacturer in the United States. They continue to be used in areas of the world where a connection to electric power lines is not a realistic option.
The multi-bladed wind turbine atop a lattice tower made of wood or steel was, for many years, a fixture of the landscape throughout rural America. These mills, made by a variety of manufacturers, featured a large number of blades so that they would turn slowly with considerable torque in low winds and be self regulating in high winds. A tower-top gearbox and crankshaft converted the rotary motion into reciprocating strokes carried downward through a rod to the pump cylinder below.
Windmills and related equipment are still manufactured and installed today on farms and ranches, usually in remote parts of the western United States where electric power is not readily available. The arrival of electricity in rural areas, brought by the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) in the 1930s through 1950s, contributed to the decline in the use of windmills in the US. Today, the increases in energy prices and the expense of replacing electric pumps has led to an increase in the repair, restoration and installation of new windmills.
The most modern generations of windmills are more properly called wind turbines, or wind generators, and are primarily used to generate electricity. Modern windmills are designed to convert the energy of the wind into electricity. The largest wind turbines can generate up to 6MW of power (for comparison a modern fossil fuel power plant generates between 500 and 1,300MW).
With increasing environmental concern, and approaching limits to fossil fuel consumption, wind power has regained interest as a renewable energy source. It is increasingly becoming more useful and sufficient in providing energy for many areas of the world.
One area where turbines have become feasible, is in the Midwestern United States, due to great amounts of wind,
A windpump is a type of windmill used for pumping water from a well or draining land.
Windpumps are used extensively in Southern Africa and Australia and on farms and ranches in the central plains of the United States. In South Africa and Namibia thousands of windpumps are still operating. These are mostly used to provide water for human use as well as drinking water for large sheep stocks.
Kenya has also benefited from the Africa development of windpump technologies. At the end of the 70s, the UK NGO Intermediate Technology Development Group provided engineering support to the Kenyan company Bobs Harries Engineering Ltd for the development of the Kijito windpumps. Nowadays Bobs Harries Engineering Ltd is still manufacturing the Kijito windpumps and more than 300 Kijito windpumps are operating in the whole of East Africa.
The Netherlands is well known for its windmills. Most of these iconic structures situated along the edge of polders are actually windpumps, designed to drain the land. These are particularly important as much of the country lies below sea level.
Many windpumps were built in The Broads, of East Anglia in the United Kingdom for the draining of land. They have since been mostly replaced by electric power, many of these windpumps still remain, mainly in a derelict state (pictured), however some have been restored.
On US farms, particularly in the Midwest, windpumps were used to pump water from farm wells for cattle. The self-regulating farm wind pump was invented by Daniel Halliday in 1854. Eventually steel blades and steel towers replaced wooden construction, and at their peak in 1930, an estimated 600,000 units were in use, with capacity equivalent to 150 megawatts. Early wind pumps directly operated the pump shaft from a crank attached to the rotor of the windmill; the installation of back gearing between wind rotor and pump crank allowed the pump to function at lower wind speeds. Today water is primarily raised by electric pumps, and only a few windpumps survive as unused relics of an environmentally sustainable technology. This type of windpump can be found worldwide and is still manufactured in the United States, Argentina, and South Africa. A six-foot diameter windpump rotor can lift up to 180 gallons per hour of water with a 15 to 20 mile per hour wind, according to a modern manufacturer (about 700 litres/hour by a 1.8 metre rotor in 24-32 km/hour wind). Wind pumps require little maintenance, only requiring gear oil changes about once per year. An estimated 60,000 wind pumps are stil in use in the United States. They are particularly economical in remote sites distant from electric power distribution.
A tjasker is a type of drainage windmill found in the Netherlands. It is a simple design used for raising water where only a low head is required.
A tjasker comprises four common sails mounted on a windshaft. The windshaft sits on a tripod which allows it to pivot, and carries an Archimedes screw at its lower end. The screw raises water into a collecting ring, where it is drawn off into a ditch at a higher level, thus draining the land. The tjasker can only raise water to a relatively low height.
The Windmill also plays an important role in Animal Farm, a book by George Orwell. In the book, an allegory of the Russian Revolution and the subsequent early Soviet Union, the effort invested to construct a windmill is provided by the animals in the hope of reduced manual labour and increased living standards.People George Green, a famous UK self-taught mathematician and physicist, owned and operated a windmill. Green's Windmill has been restored as cultural heritage.Sir Bernard Montgomery lived in a converted windmill after he retired.Films