Wind turbines are manufactured in a wide range of vertical and horizontal axis. The smallest turbines are used for applications such as battery charging for auxiliary power for boats or caravans or to power traffic warning signs. Larger turbines can be used for making contributions to a domestic power supply while selling unused power back to the utility supplier via the electrical grid. Arrays of large turbines, known as wind farms, are becoming an increasingly important source of intermittent renewable energy and are used by many countries as part of a strategy to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels. One assessment claimed that, as of 2009, wind had the “lowest relative greenhouse gas emissions, the least water consumption demands and… the most favourable social impacts” compared to photovoltaic, hydro, geothermal, coal and gas.
A windpump is a type of windmill which is used for pumping water.
Windpumps were used to pump water since at least the 9th century in what is now Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan. The use of wind pumps became widespread across the Muslim world and later spread to China and India. Windmills were later used extensively in Europe, particularly in the Netherlands and the East Anglia area of Great Britain, from the late Middle Ages onwards, to drain land for agricultural or building purposes.
Simon Stevin’s work in the waterstaet involved improvements to the sluices and spillways to control flooding. Windmills were already in use to pump the water out, but in Van de Molens (On mills), he suggested improvements, including the idea that the wheels should move slowly, and a better system for meshing of the gear teeth. These improvements increased the efficiency of the windmills used to pump water out of the polders by three times. He received a patent on his innovation in 1586.
Eight- to ten-bladed windmills were used in the Region of Murcia, Spain, to raise water for irrigation purposes. The drive from the windmill’s rotor was led down through the tower and back out through the wall to turn a large wheel known as a noria. The noria supported a bucket chain which dangled down into the well. The buckets were traditionally made of wood or clay. These windmills remained in use until the 1950s, and many of the towers are still standing.