Unfortunately, that captivating scene is viewed by relatively few today. For centuries, windmills were at the cutting edge of technology, but after decades of neglect, believe it or not, the windmill concept is now enjoying a revival that is benefiting people everywhere.
Windmills used to be a familiar landmark in many parts of the world. Millions of windmills once dotted the plains of the central and western United States. They were used mostly to pump water from wells, but also as a source of electric power.
Of course, harnessing the power of the wind is not a new idea. Just think of all the ships driven by the wind that sailed the oceans during the ages before the advent of engines. Windmills have been used for centuries to pump water, to grind corn and spices, and to saw wood. In the 18th century, they also supplied power for sawmills, grindstones, and for thriving industrial centers. In the Netherlands there are about 900 of these graceful monuments left. Many of them are still faithfully pumping water; they are reliable even during power outages.
In the 20th century, windmills were largely replaced by gasoline engines. Sadly this has been a source of pollution and expense. Whereas the windmill an age-old way of drawing energy from the environment, can generate great power without pollution and less cost. Of course this also depends on the sun, because it creates the weather and the climatic differences that determine which way and how strong the wind blows.
But now, with petroleum losing its dominant position, wind power bids to reclaim its popularity. Giving impetus to the renewed interest is the realization that the potential of the wind is much greater than had been believed. A University of California scientist claims, in a recent report, that, on a worldwide basis, man’s total need for energy could be supplied 20 times over with power only from the wind. Even in the United States, if the wind resources were fully exploited, there would be enough to supply 75 percent of the power now used. In many locations, the energy in the wind averages almost as much as that in the sunlight.
Greater use is being made of windmills to pump water, saving electricity costs and fuel. Remember, at one time windmills were a standard means for pumping water from the ground in many lands, both for private use and for watering livestock. But electric pumps brought a decline in their use. Now, with the high cost of electricity and fuel, more people, particularly in rural areas, are installing water-pumping windmills. The initial cost is more than made up in time by not having to pay electricity costs, and maintenance is minimal. Sounds good doesn't it? With little difficulty a family can at least pump water and provide light for their home in this manner.
Modern Successors to the Ancient Windmills
The fuel crisis of the 1970’s led to the investigation of alternative energy not dependent on fossil fuels. At approximately the same time, a growing concern arose about emissions from fossil-based fuels polluting the atmosphere. The search began for “clean” energy. Suddenly, the windmill concept became an attractive option and wind turbines became a developing technology.
Modern “windmills” are much slimmer than their predecessors. This is because, unlike the traditional windmill, modern wind turbines do not normally drive a machine housed within the mill structure. Each turbine converts wind power into electrical energy, which often passes to the local electricity grid. By 1988 these new “windmills” were producing 1,500 megawatts of power in Europe, just as their predecessors had done a century earlier.
Looking like a line of huge, frost-covered trees on the crests of prominent hills, modern wind farms have begun to change the face of rural landscapes. Although these wind turbines may not look beautiful, most people feel that any negative visual impact is a small price to pay for the tens of thousands of megawatts of clean power that the wind turbines produce globally. These modern windmills make a significant contribution to the worldwide effort to reduce greenhouse gases, something that benefits everyone.
Personally, I prefer the traditional old fashion look of the windmill you may see on a working farm. However, neither the traditional windmill nor the modern wind turbine could function if it were not for that never-ending supply of “clean” energy—the wind. How grateful we can be to “the Creator of the wind”! Amos 4:13
I am looking forward to the time when I may be able to have one of these beautiful giants. Not only beautiful, but useful. How about you?
This is Raven-as the crow flies