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History of Windmills - Part 2: Windmills in Europe

Wind Energy holds a significant place among sustainable energy sources today. While wind turbines may seem like a technological achievement, their roots actually trace back to ancient times. As a company producing wind turbines under the brand name SoyutWind, we aim to understand the history of wind energy and shed light on developments in this field. We are embarking on a journey to explore the history of windmills in Europe. You will discover how this impressive technology evolved and laid the foundation for today's modern wind turbines.

Windmills in the Islamic World

In our previous article, we explored the history of windmills in the Islamic world, noting that these windmills were primarily used for simple tasks such as grain milling and water pumping. However, the technological advancement of windmills in the Islamic world did not progress significantly from the 1st century AD to the 9th century.

The Emergence of Windmills in Europe

The use of wind energy in Europe followed a different trajectory compared to the Islamic world. In the Islamic world, windmills were generally simple and functional, but in Europe, this technology took a larger and more diverse direction, serving various purposes. Now, let's take a closer look at the history of windmills in Europe:

Post Windmills

The first windmill in Europe was constructed around the 11th century AD. These windmills were called 'post windmills' and had a different design compared to the models used in the Islamic world. The key feature of post windmills was that the entire structure rotated around a central post, allowing the mill's blades to turn with the direction of the wind. However, this system lacked the ability to automatically adjust to changes in wind direction and had to be manually positioned by people.

Technological advancements made the use of post windmills more efficient. In particular, the use of metal parts and the addition of bearings to reduce vibrations increased the durability of these windmills.

However, post windmills had limitations. In particular, they required manual adjustment as the wind direction changed. There was limited space inside for the individuals overseeing and controlling the grain milling process.

Tower Windmills

Tower windmills emerged in England in the 12th century. These windmills were notable for their large and vertical structures. Their most significant feature was the ability to automatically turn towards the wind thanks to adjustable wooden roofs. This innovation greatly improved the efficiency of windmills.

Some of the innovations brought by tower windmills include:

  1. The rotation of only the upper part of the roof.
  2. The creation of an interior space where the operator and other equipment could comfortably fit.
  3. The ability to use larger blades thanks to tall and sturdy structures.

However, tower windmills were a costly option and could only be constructed by the wealthy and governments. Some windmills were mounted on old castle towers to reduce costs and make them more accessible.

Smock Windmills

Due to the cost and the inability to be installed on wet ground, the Dutch developed smock windmills in the 17th century. These windmills got their name from their resemblance to the work smocks worn by farmers in earlier times. The lower half of the mills was made of brick or stone, while the upper half was in the form of a wooden smock. This design made the mills lightweight and stable.

Another important feature of these smock-shaped windmills was the inclusion of a small turbine that could automatically turn with the wind's direction. This ensured that the mill consistently faced into the wind. Additionally, the blades were designed to rotate from the root to the tip, making them more aerodynamic.

This design became popular in the Netherlands and was adopted throughout Europe. Especially in the Netherlands, these windmills were put to excellent use for pumping and distributing water. They could also be constructed on wet ground. The Dutch supported the sails with a wooden spar, making them more resilient against weather conditions. Additionally, they added features such as shutters and covers to control the speed of the wind turbines.

The End of Windmills

When windmills reached their peak prevalence in Europe, there were over 200,000 windmills on the continent. The two countries with the most windmills were the Netherlands and England. These windmills played a vital role in tasks such as grain milling, water pumping, and other industrial processes.

However, the popularity of windmills declined with the emergence of steam engines and internal combustion engines. These engines could perform tasks like water pumping and grain milling more efficiently.

Fortunately, with further advancements in wind energy technology, wind turbines have made a comeback to contribute to clean energy production. Modern wind turbines now play a significant role in environmentally-friendly energy production and are becoming widespread worldwide.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Do we have any information about where windmills were first used?

The first windmills were used in the Islamic world for simple tasks such as grain milling and water pumping.

2. Why did tower-type windmills become more widespread?

Tower windmills were more efficient due to their roofs that could automatically turn with the wind direction. Additionally, they could generate more energy by using larger blades.

3. Why did wind energy become popular again?

The advancement of wind energy technology and its acceptance as an environmentally friendly energy source has made wind turbines popular again. Their usage is rapidly increasing worldwide to contribute to clean energy production.


In this article, we explored the history of windmills in Europe. The evolution of this technology has played a significant role in energy generation and environmental sustainability. At SoyutWind, we closely monitor developments in wind energy and technology and continue to contribute to future clean energy production.

Source: windmillstech