Windmills Explained – Different Types and How They Work

Windmills are machines that have been built and used for centuries now. What these iconic machines mainly do is gather wind energy using repeated rotating motions. The motion is conducted with the use of adjustable vanes, which are also called sails.

These machines were first created to produce mechanical energy to power up grinding mills in different milling industries including paper mills, grain mills, sawmills, and so on

The original machine dates all the way back to the 1st century and was believed to be a smaller “windwheel”, as it used to be called. It was created by a Greek engineer named Heron of Alexandria, and was the first machinery that harnessed wind power.

Over the years, several different types of them were created.

Different Types of Windmills

The most common types are the following:

Vertical-axis mill. This is the original type, and amazingly, a few of this still exist, particularly in the Middle East. These were made up of ancient stone enclosures with an opening through which air freely flowed through so that the blades would move.

Post mill. This was developed by the French and Englishmen to provide energy for grinding stone. This is the most common type and can still be found all over the world, although they are not very powerful because they are pretty small.

Simple drain mill. This is used for water pumping purposes, and can only be found in the Netherlands. These are smaller machines with sails fixed by a screw and attached to a hollow pipe.

Tower mill. This is used near the sea to generate energy using ocean wind. They have unique sails equipped with several masts, making them look a lot like sails used in boats. These are the most distinctive-looking windmills of all.

Stage mill. This is a larger type built especially higher than other types so it can harness wind even in areas full of tall crops and buildings. A stage mill is often made of stone, wood, or brick, and is built on a raised platform.

Dutch saw mill. This is another type unique to the Netherlands; it is used for the sole purpose of sawing lumber.

Important Differences Between Windmills and Wind Turbines ;

A lot of people tend to think that they are one and the same, or use the two terms to refer to the same thing. So they are usually surprised to learn that there are, in fact, many differences between them.

To start off, their very purposes are different. While wind turbines convert wind energy directly into electricity, windmills convert wind energy into mechanical energy and They, on the other hand, can power mechanical equipments for pumping water or milling grain. Wind turbines are used to produce electricity that can power up any electrical equipment or can be stored in batteries for future use.

They also differ based on the way they work, first and foremost because windmills have more propeller blades than a wind turbine. This is because, since the function of windmills is to enable physical work, they are required to provide a greater amount of energy. On the other hand, wind turbines have less blades, usually only three, because they produce electricity, which is not used for physical work. You will also notice that wind turbines are way taller than windmils.

How They Work

To better understand why they should be differentiated from wind turbines, you first need to understand the working principle behind its design. A windmill is made up of several spinning blades. These are connected to an axle and gears, which are, in turn, connected to a vertical shaft attached to a tower. The vertical shaft continues all the way to the mechanical equipment that sources energy from the wind. As you can see, everything happens in a physical manner; wind turbines, on the other hand, use a motor and a generator.

All the different types basically apply the same working principle despite changes in their purpose, design, construction, and materials.