The Most Important Facts about the History of Windmills
Windmills are very iconic and useful structures that have become quite a marvel due to their longevity. They have been in use for centuries but have managed to find their way to present usage. Along the way, the term “windmill” expanded in usage.
What used to refer to large ancient stone structures connected to machineries now also include more sophisticated versions that can do more than just provide mechanical power to machines.
Windmills are now used for more purposes, some of which guarantee that they will still be in use for quite a long time.
The Beginning of Windmill Technology
History’s definition of a windmill is a machine that gathers wind power and converts it into energy. In the past, their usage was restricted to generating mechanical energy to power machineries and equipments used in different milling industries.
The first time wind power was harnessed using a machine designed for that purpose occurred in the 1st century. The machine was called the windwheel, and it was created by Heron of Alexandria, a Greek engineer.
In the 4th century BC, another version appeared in China and ancient Tibet, It was called the prayer wheel.
But the first actual windmills were the vertical-axis ones that were invented in Persia in the 9th century. This is the closer ancestor of the structure we now know today. It was said to have between six and twelve sails with a reed matting or cloth cover. This version became popular in the Middle East and in Asia.
The vertical-axis type was followed by the horizontal-axis ones, which became popular in Europe from the 12th century.
In the 13th century, China started using a vertical-shaft windmill for irrigation. By the end of that period, another version called the tower mill was introduced. These became very popular in the Netherlands. In the 16th century, the tower mill was modified and re-introduced as the smock mill. In 1745, a man named Edmund Lee then invented the fantail, a smaller version of the windmill.
When the Industrial Revolution rolled along, wind power took a backseat and was replaced by internal combustion engines and steam engines. Shortly after this, people also started using diesel power. Some countries in Europe, however, retained their use of windmills.
Milestones in Windmill History
• Water Pumping Windmills in History
After the long history of windmills came several different modified versions of it. Soon the windmills used to pump water also entered the scene, which expanded their use to include non-milling activities. The water pumping machines were developed in the US; these proved very useful in the farms and ranches scattered across North America because the area had scarce water supply.
• Windmills for Power
Originally, windmills provided only mechanical energy. But as inventors started seeing more potential in the machine, they delved deeper and found out that it could be used for othe purposes. So in the 1980s, some folks built wind farms whose main purpose is to harvest energy from the wind.
• Windmills for Home Electricity
More recently, the machine was modified so that it would be able to generate electricity. The best part is, you can find windmill energy generators specifically designed for use in homes. This provides homeowners with the opportunity to cancel their expensive electric connections and enjoy free electricity for a long time.
The Evolution to Wind Turbines
Finally, the most recently development in the history of windmills is the invention and use of wind turbines. A wind turbine is a device that gathers kinetic energy from the wind and converts it into electrical energy. Generally, a wind turbine is more expensive, which can be justified by the fact that turbines are specifically designed for them.
The concept behind how the wind turbine and the windmill is the same. They both use blades or sails that rotate to create force from the wind. However, the turbines were designed a bit differently and with the use of different materials because they had to be able to produce a more significant amount of energy. The conventional type of turbine used in today’s popular wind farms consists of three longer blades, while windmills use more than three blades of a smaller size to meet its electricity quota.