Different types of windmills

Written by christina dillon
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Different types of windmills
In the 1960s, the U.S. began exporting windmills to other countries. (windmill image by Bruce Allinson from Fotolia.com)

In the United States, windmills began as expensive toys for the well-off, but in Europe, the use of windmills dates back as far as the 13th century. It wasn't until the 1860s that ordinary farmers in the U.S. began taking advantage of the windmill's power.

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Pillar Windmill

The pillar is the most ancient type of windmill, dating back to the 13th century. The rectangular body of the mill is free to turn with the direction of the wind as it rests on a vertical wooden pillar. This type of windmill later evolved to become what is known as the cable transmission shaft mill, which uses a cylindrical-shaped base in lieu of the pyramid that was used to anchor its earlier incarnation.

Skirt and Monk Windmills

The name for this type of windmill comes from its distinctive shape. The roof of the skirt windmill is said to be reminiscent of a woman's skirt. This is an older type of windmill that is not used as commonly as its cousin, the round masonry windmill, which is commonly called a "monk." It is used to help drain a body of land that was reclaimed from the sea, protected by dykes.

Gallery and Elevated Windmills

Gallery and elevated windmills are found on uneven terrain, where obstacles, such as buildings or trees, block the passage of wind. On either of these windmills, you'll find a circular terrace located high enough to use the power of the wind. Gallery windmills sit on a brick foundation, while elevated mills use artificial materials.

American Windmill

In 1854, Daniel Halladay received the first patent in the U.S. for a windmill. It was then exhibited at the New York State Fair where it was awarded a silver medal for being the most valuable new machine for farmers. His machine received much press and sparked the evolution of the windmill often used on farms today. Early versions of this windmill featured paddle-shaped blades that were later replaced with thin blades slotted to wooden rims. In the 19th and 20th centuries, a solid-wheel windmill was introduced, replacing blades with a rigid wheel with an angle adjustable to the direction of the wind. This solid wheel proved to be more durable than previous versions of the American windmill.

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