The first windmills that were used in Holland for water draining are mentioned in written documents in the year 1414. Windmills used for graining, have existed there 200 years before that. The oldest known documents that mentions a windmill are the privileges offered to the city’s bourgeois, in 1274. The feudal senior could give the right of building a windmill, to constrain the workers to bring cereals to his windmill, and to forbid the construction or the planting of trees near the windmill for ensuring the strongest wind.

In the following years, windmills spread over Holland. Old towers that used to be used for keeping gun powder were converted into mills. But the real development of Dutch windmills takes place at the end of the XVI century and the beginning of the next one. The windmills started to be used more and more to make all sorts of manufactures. They were built from heavy wood, brought in ships from heavily forested lands from around the Baltic Sea.

The cheapest energy source for the Dutchmen was the force of the wind. Bigger and stronger windmills could drain large quantities of water. That was incredibly necessary as the land of Holland was constantly in the danger of being drowned by water. As its territory was under the sea level, many great cities like Amsterdam and Haarlem were threaten to be flooded. As an example of the power of the mills, in just one year, the Beemster Lake was emptied by 26 windmills.

Around the year 1850, approximately 9000 windmills were functional in Holland, probably the greatest number that ever existed there. After that date, their number started to decrease. By the end of the XIX century there were only 2500 windmills left.

In 1920, an initiative for creating an association to protect the windmills was beginning to take shape. This association was born in 1923, in Amsterdam. As result of a petition the Dutch society of windmills wrote, in 1924 a letter to the minister of Education, Arts and Science that highlighted the importance of preserving these monuments. Similar letters were sent in 1930 and in 1939.

By the 1st of January 1961, an agreement has become operative and according to it, anyone who maintained a working windmill received a subvention from the state. Most of the times, a windmill owned by an old person, who can’t keep it in working conditions, is taken by the authorities and transformed into a historic monument. Usually, it shelters a museum or it becomes a center of receptions organized in the honor of foreign guests.

Holland greatly owes its existence to the windmills, because, with their help, water was kept from flooding the land and can now hold a growing population.

When talking about a windmill, nowadays we usually refer to that machine used to convert wind energy into mechanical energy.

Looking back in the past, we see that the first practical windmill, that looked quite different than the actual concept of what we nowadays call a windmill, was the vertical axis windmills. They were invented in eastern Persia, somewhere around the 9 th century, even though there are some stories telling that in the 634-644AD this type of machinery was already being used. A similar windmill was used in China in the 13 th century.

The vertical windmill originated in northwestern Europe, more exactly in northern France, eastern England and Flanders, during the late part of the 12 th century. These windmills were used to grind cereals and their particularity was that the whole body was moving, unlike the tower mills that appeared in the 13 th century, and had only a part that was rotating, called the timber cap.

Another windmill type is the smock mill, invented in England, in 1745, and which is a variation of the tower mill. Back then, windmills started to be used for various tasks, like grain grinding, sawmills, threshing, for land drainage or water supply.

Windmills had a very important contribution in allowing the farming and the ranching of vast areas of North America. Also, they were used to expand the rail transport all over the world, as they were pumping water from wells to supply steam locomotives. In Canada, They were part of fortifications. One of the most memorable ones, was the one from Fort Senneville, also called the “most substantial castle-like fort”.

But, with the industrial revolution, the windmill’s place as an energy source was substituted by internal combustion and steam engines. Of course, despite of being an inevitable step in the development of technology, these sources of energy became grave pollutant factors.

That is why, nowadays people tend to come back or to find alternative energies, to stop the damage that toxic gases have brought to our planet. Wind and solar energy are becoming our favorites these days and people are willing to make financial sacrifices in order to make a long term investment that in addition to helping them reduce their energy bills, is 100% ecological.  

Much like in other areas, the old-fashioned trends are coming back, and when talking about energy, this is true too. People have begun to realize the harm they have brought to our planet, and try to change this. The good, old windmill is now reborn and ready to help us get the Earth back on feet.