Don Quixote bravely charged at an army of towering, intriguing and menacing (to him) structures with wildly rotating arms. These were but harmless windmills, machines which were specially designed to convert the wind’s energy into other useful forms of energy such as mechanical energy. Over the years, the usage of windmills have changed considerably as now, the windmills are used to pump water and generate electricity among other uses.
Windmills originated in Persia and the maiden windmills were the practical vertical axle windmills, invented in the 9th century by Estakhri, a Persian geographer. Those ancient windmills consisted of six to twelve sails covered in a certain cloth or reed material and were used to draw water and grind corn. These early windmills were different from the modern European versions and later spread through Spain to Europe. In China during the 13th century, a similar version was in use mainly for irrigation. In modern times the windmill has come of age. It has significantly developed to become the wind turbines and wind generators of today. These machines are now mostly used to convert the wind’s energy into electricity. The increasing environmental concern has led wind-power to be a source of renewable energy which is becoming extremely useful and convenient in supplying the much needed energy across the globe.
Types of windmills
Windmills are of different styles, sizes, structures and purposes. Here is a selection of the different kinds of windmills:
- There is the fixed windmill which was oriented to the prevailing wind. This is the type that mounted triangular sails when in use.
- The ‘Tjasker’ of the Netherlands is a type of windmill which is used for drainage- for raising water where only a low head is required. It comprises of four common sails mounted on a wind shaft.
- Another type of windmill is the wind pump, used for pumping water from a well or draining land.
- Since windmills are generally known to have four sails, an increase in the number of sails increased the power obtained. Multi-sailed windmills are more efficient and run smoother than the four sail windmills. Developed in the United States, the water pumping windmills were used to pump water from wells.
Importance of windmills
Windmills may sound old fashioned and outdated, however, this is not true because even today windmills and related equipment are still manufactured and installed to combat the increase in energy prices and the expenses of replacing electric pumps. Windmills contribute greatly to the environment as they are a clean source of energy. By using wind power to generate electricity, to pump water and to grind cereals a lot of expenses are cut down. They require no fuel to function, hence help to decrease pollution.
They may be one of the oldest inventions yet they contribute a lot to mankind the world over. This may be the 21st century but windmills are still considered a great invention. What can we say for the windmills are growing and developing with us and their uses are increasing. The windmill was the bone of contention between Napoleon and Snowball in George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’, well, why not, when it is both so convenient and efficient.
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