September 09, 2011
"Of all the forces of nature, I should think the wind contains the largest amount of motive power—that is, power to move things..."
So began Abraham Lincoln.
Windmills have been trying since at least the 1st century AD.
That was when Greek engineer Heron of Alexandria began using a wind-driven wheel to power a machine.
Don Quixote, as you recall, had his legendary battle with a Spanish windmill in the 17th century.
Horizontal windmills, usually more efficient than vertical ones, were in their heyday a hundred years later.
Sensible people go to Bruges for the chocolate.
But take a walk out of the city center and around the perimeter and you'll see something memorable — the four remaining windmills out of the original 25.
One of them is Sint-Janshuysmolen built by a group of Bakers in 1770.
Visit the tiny museum inside and you'll learn it still functions as an active grain mill.
Today, a lot of old windmills are tourist attractions, most of the active ones pump water and some plucky wind turbines are generating electricity.
I was pleased to read that a modest $3 million federal grant to a University of Maine research center will build windmills to harness the strong winds off Maine's coast to produce energy.
By 2012, the Global Wind Energy Council expects that wind power will grow by more than 155 percent.
Channeling the wind or tilting at windmills?
We're still trying.