All about windmills
For kids: Windmills have been around for centuries, and the modern versions still work hard today.
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They were called "smock" mills because the body or main structure flares out like a smock, or coat worn by farmers.Skip to next paragraph
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The De Gooyer windmill dates back to the 1700s. It was moved near the center of Amsterdam in 1814, where it has stood ever since.
Windmills such as De Gooyer were moved or retired because the Netherlands turned to steam power and then to electricity as it industrialized. It no longer needed wind power.
One by one, the windmills fell out of use as the new motors took over their tasks. Once, about 10,000 windmills captured the breezes in the Netherlands and helped people work. By the early 1900s, more than 7,000 had been retired. Today, slightly more than 1,000 remain.
The good news is that in recent years people have taken an interest in restoring old windmills. Today, the windmills of the Netherlands are protected, and people can tour many of them.
For Americans, a special windmill to view would be De Schoolmeester, located in the province of North Holland. Built about 1692, it still functions as a paper mill today, and America's Declaration of Independence is thought to be written on paper produced by it!
Modern windmills and what they do
Many old windmills in the Netherlands and elsewhere may be only tourist attractions now, but more modern windmills around the world continue to do important work for people.
Wind pumps, once a fixture on the American plains, are still used on some farms in the United States to pump water from wells or other sources for drinking and irrigation.
A special type of windmill, known as a wind turbine, turns wind energy into electricity that people can use to power their computers, TVs, and desk lamps.
Wind turbines are made of metal poles that look as though they have propellers of two or three blades on top.
The turbines soar 100 feet or more into the air and can be grouped together in "wind farms" to produce more power. The propeller turns a rotor, which is connected to a generator that makes the electricity.
Of course, when there's no wind, there's no electricity generated. And to some people, turbines spoil beautiful landscapes or ocean views.
Still, the wind is a good source of clean, renewable energy.
There will always be breezes blowing somewhere in the world, so wind won't run out as fossil fuels are forecast to. And unlike fossil fuels, wind turbines don't produce greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.
The use of wind energy is on the rise, in part because of its environmental benefits. By 2012, the Global Wind Energy Council expects that wind power will grow by more than 155 percent.
• To learn more about wind power, go to www.eia.doe.gov/kids/energyfacts/sources/renewable/wind.html.
• To see how a wind turbine works, visit www1.eere.energy.gov/windandhydro/wind_how.html.