Windmills – then and now – old idea new technology.

Classic Greek sailwing Windmill

Classic Greek sail-wing Windmill without the sail.

Ever wonder why it took so long to adapt the centuries-old harnessing of wind power to modern needs?  We did too.

If you’ve ever dreamed of going to the Greek islands you no-doubt have mind images of ancient Greek wind-sail windmills now the classic images of Mykonos …among other Greek Islands.  And any mention of Holland prompts a mental image of the classic Dutch windmills.  Still most images of the classic American farm include a red barn, and a classic metal blade windmill… and sometimes a silo.

Windmills are nothing new.  The perfection of the airfoil, the shape and camber of a planes wing… or to our point …the same shape of a modern windmill blade, is what has made windmills economically feasible for electrical generation on a large scale.

Windmills in Holland

Windmills in Holland

Modern windmill sites require an annual average wind of 15-18 miles per hour… for starters.  Of course an efficient electricity generating windmill facility needs to be near power transmission lines …often a major drawback.  Gigantic modern windmills need to be anywhere from 1000 to 1600 feet apart so they work efficiently.

Modern windmill farms are not cheap as a capital investment.  The ideal is to be able to generate 10 Megawatts of power …that’s 10,000 Kilowatts .  The cost for this size facility is approximately $12-$15 million dollars fully built out.

U.S. 40's steel blade farm windmill

U.S. 40's steel blade farm windmill

More efficient windmills have recently been developed.  Siemens, among others,  unveiled, in 2010, a new 3 MW (megawatt) direct drive turbine. Instead of a gearbox, this turbine connects the rotor right to a magnet generator which makes it more reliable, weighs less, and has fewer parts.  All long term cost improvements.

These new turbines require permanent magnets, which in turn require rare earth metals, which are most abundant in China.  With China developing their own alternative energy sources… including windmill power …the cost of rare earth metals increases.

modern windmills in corn field

Modern windmills in corn field - Photo: Warren Gretz, NREL

This is a complicated …full of worldwide considerations …industry.  Its a pity the U.S. still does not have a firm energy policy to help industry leaders make their long-terms plans and budgets for this industry which has a gigantic potential for all.

We are all struggling to keep the Earth green.  We use bamboo to make T-shirts for men and women… our Casualmere® brand.  Wind, solar and thermal energy are major areas of advancement.  Please do what you can too.  Remember …”if it smokes – we  are burning our bridges to the future.”.

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