How Windmills Won the American West? | Stirlingkit

How Windmills Won the American West? | Stirlingkit

How Windmills Won the American West? | Stirlingkit

You may know cowboys from the American West, but did you know that the American West is also famous for its windmills?

Do you know how the United States developed from a barren plain to the agricultural country it is today?

It all needs to be mentioned - The Windmill


What country has used windmills?

Windmills have been used for thousands of years in Asia, the Middle East and Europe to pump water and grind grain.

The Dutch learned how to design a large wind pumps to drain the lakes and marshes of the Rhine Delta, windmills with woven reed blades are used in Persia and the Middle East to grind grain. Merchants and crusades brought wind energy technology to Europe.

Migrants from Europe eventually brought wind energy technology to the Western Hemisphere and North American settlers began using windmills to help pump water to irrigate farms from the late 19th century. Many old windmills still stand in various locations around the world.


In the Netherlands


Pillar-based windmills (also called mailbox windmills)

The Dutch windmills all evolved from this type of windmill. It is like a small house with a roof and all the processes are inside the small house. Because of the limited space available, this type of windmill could not serve the larger processes.

Tower windmill

The shape of the tower windmill is somewhat similar to that of the shaking head windmill. However, the tower windmill is mainly brick-built and incorporates housing requirements as well as offensive and defensive facilities.

The Column Windmill -——a fine and luxurious version of the Dutch windmill.

It is the largest of all windmills in terms of volume, reducing the impact on the building or vegetation at the bottom and raising the windmill as high as possible, it is a windmill built on a building foundation.

In Greece

Cycladic windmills

The Greek island of Mykonos has a strong sea peak and in the early days the islanders used to build windmills to grind their wheat. With modernisation and the development of tourism, most of the windmills have ceased to function, but many can still be seen on the island as places of interest.



Aermotor windmill

Aermotor Windmill has been producing windmills since 1888 and is the only windmill manufacturer in the USA. Basically all the windmills that can be found on farms in the USA today come from this company


(from The Kregel Windmill Company)

Why are windmills so important to the western U.S.?

The United States today is a major agricultural nation and it is not uncommon to see patches of golden wheat on the plains. But you can't imagine that in the 18th century, it was a barren Great Plains that was crowned the Great American Desert.

Due to the climate, the western United States often experienced droughts after the rainy season and the sun and wind dried up the surface waters, making the plains in the western United States considered extremely unsuitable for farming. 

Ranchers on the West Texas plains had little access to the water they needed to meet their personal needs, let alone grow crops or raise livestock. Is it the lack of water, you may ask? No, it is just that most of the water flows deep underground, usually more than 300 feet below the surface.

The poor farmers could not afford the cloth-sailed windmills of Europe, they were big, expensive and difficult to transport.

It was not until 1854 that Daniel Halladay invented the American windmill. The new windmill could pump water from great depths at a steady speed, then transfer it to the prevailing wind and run well in both fast and slow winds. Above all, they were smaller and cheaper than European windmills, easy to transport and build, and required little maintenance.

Self-governing pump windmills soon became favourites on the plains, where ploughmen, farmers and ranchers could drill wells and pump water, no longer having to rely on natural water.


The water pumped by the windmills was used for cooking, bathing, drinking, watering crops and animals, washing clothes and much more. Farmers refer to windmills as simple and reliable partners.

The advent of windmills greatly helped to speed up development in the west. Here, ranchers could build up herds and farmers could plant more. A plentiful supply of water made the western Great Plains the nation's breadbasket.


As time passed, windmills became the visual symbol of the Great Plains. High windmills on the flat plains were often the most visible sign of civilization. Many who grew up on the plains have fond memories of windmills, from cold drinks after field work to learning how to swim in livestock tanks.



History Of U.S. Windmills

1850——The US Wind Engine Company founded

Daniel Halladay and John Burnham founded the  company and built the Halladay Windmill, which was turned into a landscape design for the American West.

1890——Wind power pumps water and electricity

Wind energy in North America is used to help pump water for irrigation for farmers and ranchers, with windmills generating electricity for homes and businesses

1891——Steel blades invented for windmills

Invention of steel blades for windmills made them more productive, and over six million windmills were erected throughout the countryside as homesteaders moved west

1941——The largest turbine powered local utility during World War II

The largest wind turbine of the time was running on top of a mountain in Vermont known as grandpa's Knob. During World War II, Its 1.25 megawatts of electricity powered the local utility network for several months.

1980——First large wind farms built

The first large (utility-scale) wind farms were built in California. However, the environmental impact and the appropriateness of the siting (where the wind turbines were to be installed) led to the development of low impact design.

2012——Installed capacity in the USA reaches 60 billion watts

Wind power generation in the US reaches a level that could power 15 million homes.

2013 ——First grid-connected turbine for offshore wind power in the US

Supported by a $12 million investment from the US Department of Energy, a 1:8 scale, 20 kW concrete composite floating platform wind turbine was deployed at the University of Maine - the first such deployment in the world - reinforcing America's position as an innovative clean energy leadership position.

2016—— First offshore wind farm in the US

Construction of this 30 MW, five-turbine Block Island wind farm began operations off the Rhode Island coast in December 2016.

2019 ——US onshore installed capacity exceeds 100 million watts

Sufficient wind energy installed in the US to power 28 million homes



Get your hands on a DIY windmill!




  • Paul Spence: October 01, 2023

    Danna: In a few months it will be two years since this article was published and I haven’t seen a working model of an American West type windmill and pump from Stirlingkit. I’ve heard some engineering/development was done, but I guess not enough interest has shelved the project. I’m still interested if one is made. Paul

  • Jeff Smith: January 25, 2022

    Nice article, hope you do something with a model

  • Paul Spence: January 24, 2022

    Danna: Thank you for the article on How Windmills Won the American West. I hope this leads to developing a model, working American West type windmill and pump. Paul

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Danna is the editor-in-chief of our website blog and has been worked with stirlingkit for over five years.


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