What is Windmill?- Definition, Types, and Uses

Windmills represent one of the key pieces of technology that enabled our ancestors to transform the power of the wind into a physical force that can be used for countless things, from most traditional jobs such as grinding grains and moving water to the many more industrial and agricultural needs.

In this article, we discuss What is windmill, the history of windmills and how they evolved into modern designs, as well as how they work.

What is Windmill?

A windmill is a structure that converts wind power into rotational energy by means of vanes called sails or blades, specifically to mill grain (gristmills), but the term is also extended to windpumps, wind turbines, and other applications. The term wind engine is sometimes used to describe such devices.

A windmill is a device for tapping the energy of the wind by means of sails mounted on a rotating shaft. The sails are mounted at an angle or are given a slight twist so that the force of the wind against them is divided into two components, one of which, in the plane of the sails, imparts rotation.

Like waterwheels, windmills were among the original prime movers that replaced human beings as a source of power.

Windmills were used throughout the high medieval and early modern periods; the horizontal or panemone windmill first appeared in Greater Iran during the 9th century, the vertical windmill in northwestern Europe in the 12th century. Regarded as an icon of Dutch culture, there are approximately 1,000 windmills in the Netherlands today.

Windmill history

Modern windmills as we know them today started first appearing around the 8th and 9th centuries in the middle east and Western Asia. Wind turbines started being made as far back as 1887, and after the 1900s more and more wind pump windmills gained the ability to generate electricity as their secondary job.

People used wind energy to propel boats along the Nile River as early as 5,000 BC. By 200 BC, simple wind-powered water pumps were used in China, and windmills with woven-reed blades were grinding grain in Persia and the Middle East.

New ways to use wind energy eventually spread around the world. By the 11th century, people in the Middle East were using wind pumps and windmills extensively for food production. Merchants and the Crusaders brought wind technology to Europe. The Dutch developed large windpumps to drain lakes and marshes in the Rhine River Delta. Immigrants from Europe eventually took wind energy technology to the Western Hemisphere.

American colonists used windmills to grind grain, pump water, and cut wood at sawmills. Homesteaders and ranchers installed thousands of windpumps as they settled the western United States. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, small wind-electric generators (wind turbines) were also widely used.

The number of wind pumps and wind turbines declined as rural electrification programs in the 1930’s extended power lines to most farms and ranches across the country. However, some ranches still use wind pumps to supply water for livestock. Small wind turbines are becoming more common again, mainly to supply the electricity in remote and rural areas.


Types of wind turbines

There are two basic types of wind turbines based on their axis of rotation, and they are Horizontal-axis turbines and Vertical-axis turbines.

1. Vertical-axis Turbines

In the early development stage, vertical axis windmills were very popular and were in wide use. It is in such a design that the blades will be perpendicular to the ground. These vertical axis windmills replace by the horizontal axis windmills later due to their incompetence. It was mainly used for grinding grains or pumping water.

2. Horizontal-axis Turbines

The Horizontal axis windmills won many hearts due to their efficiency and productivity. It is known for its elasticity design as it harnesses more wind and easy for the operating person to change the direction according to the wind flow.

For more information check out our article: What is a Wind turbine and how does it work?

Types of Windmills

There are four different types of windmills:

  • Post mill.
  • Smock mill.
  • Tower mill.
  • Fan mill.

1. Post Mill

Post windmills

The post mill is a windmill supported by a post on which it pivots to catch the wind. It is the earliest type of European windmill. Its defining feature is that the whole body of the mill that houses the machinery is mounted on a single vertical post, around which it can be turned to bring the sails into the wind.

Post mills dominated the scene in Europe until the 19th century when tower mills began to replace them

Types of post mill

There are many types of post mills.

  • Sunk post mill
  • Open trestle post mill
  • Post mill with roundhouse
  • Hollow post mill
  • Composite post mill
  • Paltrok post mill

2. Smock Mill

The smock mill is a type of windmill that consists of a sloping, horizontally weathered, thatched, or flaky tower, usually six or eight sides. It is topped with a roof or cap that rotates to bring the sails into the wind.

The smock mill is made of wood and often sits on a brick base. It differs from a post mill in that the body does not rotate, like a tower mill, it is the cap that rotates to face the wind.

3. Tower Mill

Tower windmill

A tower mill is a type of vertical windmill consisting of a brick or stone tower on which a wooden “cap” or roof sits, on which only the cap rotates to allow the sails to look into the wind.

Tower Mill is a cotton mill in Dukinfield, Greater Manchester, England. It is a listed building.

It was designed by Potts, Pickup & Dixon in 1885 and spun cotton using mules and spinning frames until ceased to be used as a cotton mill in 1955 and then used by various industries and broken down into small units according to one-point plans.

It even became decided to convert the mill into luxury apartments, but with the 2007/08 recession, this plan was abandoned.

4. Fan mill

Fan windmill

Generally, Fan mills are single-use small windmill designs. It has four to twenty blades and is mainly used to pump water.

Uses of windmill

  • Windmills are mechanical devices that use wind turbine for converting wind energy into electrical energy.
  • Windmills have been using for pumping groundwater or grinding grain.
  • Extraction of oil from the seeds.
  • Milling of the grains.
  • Processing of commodities like Tobacco, Cocoa, Dyes, Spices Paints, and Stock-watering.

Facts about Windmill

There are some interesting facts about windmills. We hope you will enjoy them.

  • Wind energy was first developed with windmills in 200 BC in Persia and China.
  • Wind energy was then used for hundreds of years to pump water and crush grain.
  • The first modern turbine was built in Vermont in the 1940s.
  • Turbine towers normally stand over 328 ft tall.
  • 20% of the energy used in Portugal and Denmark comes from windmills
  • China has the most wind turbines
  • Every second Saturday in May is celebrated as ‘National Mills Day’ in Holland
  • One megawatt of wind power can save about 2600 tons of carbon dioxide produced by fossil fuel-powered energy sources oldest windmill dates back to the eighth century and was in the Netherlands.


What is Windmill?

A windmill is a structure that converts wind power into rotational energy by means of vanes called sails or blades, specifically to mill grain (gristmills), but the term is also extended to windpumps, wind turbines, and other applications. The term wind engine is sometimes used to describe such devices.

What are the uses of Windmills?

From old Holland to farms in the United States, windmills have been used for pumping water or grinding grain. Today, the windmill’s modern equivalent – a wind turbine – can use the wind’s energy to generate electricity. Wind turbines, like windmills, are mounted on a tower to capture the most energy.

How Do Windmills Work?

Wind turbines operate on a simple principle. The energy in the wind turns two or three propeller-like blades around a rotor. The rotor is connected to the main shaft, which spins a generator to create electricity.

What is windmill and its uses?

A windmill is a structure used to harness the power of the wind for purposes like grinding grain, pumping water, and generating electricity. The spun blade turns a shaft, which in turn spins other blades, which are attached to generators that produce electricity.

Where is the windmill in the Philippines?

The NorthWind Bangui Bay Project is located in the municipality of Bangui, Ilocos Norte, Philippines, at the northwest tip of Luzon Island. The turbines face the sea from where the prevailing wind blows towards the land.

What is difference between wind turbine and windmill?

The main difference between Windmill and Wind Turbine is that Windmill is a device that converts wind power into rational energy coming from the wind, whereas Wind Turbine is a device that converts kinetic energy into electrical energy.

What is windmill short answer?

A windmill is a type of working engine. It converts the wind’s energy into rotational energy. To do this it uses vanes called sails or blades. The energy made by windmills can be used in many ways. These include grinding grain or spices, pumping water, and sawing wood.

Why is the windmill important?

Windmills are very important since they provide a way to produce electricity without causing pollution, which is a healthier option for us and for the earth. Wind power is also a renewable resource. This means that it will continue to be available on Earth since wind is constantly produced.

Who created windmills in the Philippines?

Marcos was also responsible for the construction of windmills in Bangui and Burgos towns, which are considered the poster image of the Philippines’ renewable energy program. He said with the solar farm, Ilocos Norte will generate 50 percent of its power requirement from clean energy.

How does a windmill work for water?

A water-pumping windmill is simple and efficient. The blades of the windmill wheel catch the wind, which turns the rotor. Each upstroke pulls water into the cylinder, while on the downstroke, a check valve in the bottom keeps the water from being pushed out, so the water is forced up the pipe with the next upstroke.

Do windmills work without wind?

Do wind turbines need wind to work? Yes, wind turbines need wind to create power. No wind, no power generation.

Why is it called a windmill?

These early windmills were used for exactly what their name implies — they were mills run by the wind. The wind would spin the vanes, or blades, of the windmill, rotating a center shaft, which would then spin a grain mill, usually made of large, flat stones, to produce flour and other grain products.

How is a windmill made?

Assembly. The steel sections of the tower are made in a factory, but the tower is normally assembled onsite.  Next, the gearbox, yaw box, main drive shaft, and blade pitch are assembled then mounted onto a base frame at a factory. The nacelle encases the equipment, then is lifted and affixed onto the top of the tower.

Why do farmers use windmills?

Windmills can be used to lift water from the aquifer to directly irrigate crops or to pipe water from one location, such as a reservoir or pond, to a location where water is required. This is direct wind-to-water power, a mechanical means of moving water. They also share water with their neighbors.”

What are the disadvantages of windmill?

Wind energy has the drawback that it is not a constant energy source. Wind turbines generate noise and visual pollution. Birds have been killed by flying into spinning turbine blades. The cost of travel and maintenance on the turbines increases and is time-consuming.

Who built the first windmill?

The very first electricity-generating wind turbine was built in 1887 in Cleveland, Ohio by Charles F. Brush. Brush was an inventor and electrician. Historical records say Brush built the impressive 85-foot-tall windmill in his very own backyard.

How does windmill produce electricity?

Wind turbines use blades to collect the wind’s kinetic energy. Wind flows over the blades creating lift (similar to the effect on airplane wings), which causes the blades to turn. The blades are connected to a drive shaft that turns an electric generator, which produces (generates) electricity.

Do windmills turn on their own?

Wind turbine blades rotate when hit by the wind. And this doesn’t have to be a strong wind, either: the blades of most turbines will start turning at a wind speed of 3-5 meters per second, which is a gentle breeze.

When was a windmill invented?

On August 29, 1854, Daniel Halladay a machinist, inventor, and businessman patented the first commercially viable windmill—Halladay’s Self-Governing Windmill.

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