The wind has been powering our world for thousands of years. Here’s how the past stretches into our collective future!

Have you found yourself marveling at the spinning giants of a wind farm yet? We know that question is fraught with emotions for some people, but they are becoming more common, standing out against lush hillsides or stretching to the horizon in agricultural regions around the world. So we thought we might try to get some perspective on this!

Turns out, humans have been embracing wind energy for at least 5,000 years in some fascinating forms, so we dove in!

Over the course of history, wind harnessing contraptions have been used for everything from milling grain, to land management, to protection from the elements.

First, let’s expand our perspective with a field trip to an amazing historical site.

The Iranian town of Nashtifan still has some of these thousand year old windmills in operation! How amazing is that? Thankfully, National Geographic has a wonderful short video that allows us to learn the story of the town they’re a part of, and how these pieces of rotating wood are a crucial addition to the people way of life and history!

The idea that there may not be a successor to their caretaker is disappointing, but we’ve seen over and over on Ever Widening Circles that necessity is the mother of invention, so we suspect that situation may work itself out. Perhaps the recent surge in interest in wind energy will inspire someone to learn the ropes.

That first video made us curious about the history of harnessing the wind, so we found this perfect 5-minute retrospective to get us totally up to speed. Once we had a grasp of this fascination example of human ingenuity through the ages, we could see why possibility runs all through this story!

This is an older video (2011) so the quality isn’t what we have all grown accustomed to, but it’s really remarkable in its scope. Enjoy!

So now much of the path from the past to present makes sense! And if that’s where this technology has been, what more is possible?

Still have some concerns about wind turbines scarring the landscape?

Let’s move north. If you make your way to the Netherlands, traditional windmills look quite different. They still harness the wind for power, of course, but instead of acting as a barrier from the wind itself like in Iran, they are holding back the water! Here’s Rick Steves’ Europe with more…

Image: couple biking through windmills

Source: Max Pixel

So, while they are picturesque, they are not there to be “cute”. The machines were, and some still are, a crucial part in keeping the Netherlands dry!

This turns an old notion on it’s head doesn’t it?

Have you heard people argue that wind turbines somehow spoil the beauty of the landscape? I’ve always argued that I appreciate seeing the beauty of nature over seeing what’s man-made.

But most of us celebrate man-made turbines from the past that dot various landscapes. Hmm…

Could we eventually see these modern wind turbines as beautiful too?

Image: Field of cows and windmills

Source: Max Pixel

What’s worse to look at: some landscapes devoted to a mix of moving turbines and current agricultural uses, harnessing the energy that most of us need to survive in today’s world, or cities choked with smog?

Next up, we’ll point you to a project that has embraced the potential beauty of wind farms.

Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde believed that he could create something completely novel and thus his project, Windlicht, was born.

It connects some of these tall metal wind turbines in the Netherlands with a string of moving lasers, transforming them into something even more mesmerizing to behold.

Let’s check it out!

Now, how awesome would that be to drive by?

You can check out some of Roosegaarde’s projects that aim to highlight sustainable practices on their website (the bicycle path is my favorite!). You can also delve a little deeper into discovering how exactly wind turbines function by visiting the U.S. Department of Energy’s page!

Keep yourself open to new possibilities and happiness may stay nearby!

-Sam

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Notes:

  1.  “See the 1,000-Year-Old Windmills Still in Use Today | National Geographic.” YouTube. National Geographic, 22 Jan. 2017. Web. 13 July 2017. <https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpVm7bg6pXKo1Pr6k5kxG9A>.
  2. “On Dancing Air: The Story of Wind Power.” YouTube, LiveScience, 13 Jan. 2011, www.youtube.com/watch?v=ImRKK7Wh1kQ&t=69s.
  3. “The Netherlands: Working Windmills.” YouTube. Rick Steves’ Europe, 15 June 2009. Web. 13 July 2017. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNlc8Jj1F-Q>. 
  4. “WINDLICHT by Daan Roosegaarde [OFFICIAL MOVIE].” YouTube. Studioroosegaarde, 11 Mar. 2016. Web. 13 July 2017. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gBIWFdQM_mI>.

Samantha Burns

Executive Assistant, Staff Writer

Samantha is a listener, creator, collector of knick knacks and lover of most, if not all, types of cheese.