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The Story of a Windmill

7 Oct


Icon of Wind Turbines

Image via Wikipedia


I’m starting a new chapter, on wind power, and have spent the past few days digging into newspaper archives (digital digging, that is) to learn about the history of windmills and wind power.  I came across a strange story published in the Chicago Daily Tribune, August 31, 1873, titled “The Story of a Windmill.”  I can’t quite tell whether it’s made up or not, or if it’s meant to be funny.  In any case, here it is:

“We went out to Slaymaker’s in June, to spend the summer, but we have been obliged to leave. Slaymaker had a small stream near his house, from which he used to pump water into the tank in hisgarrot.  It occured to him some time ago that it would be a good idea to put up a windmill which co do the pumping for him, so he built one at a cost of $200.  The first day it began to revolve it frightened Slaymaker’s best horse so that it ran against the fence and was killed, and the arms were so long that they nearly brained Slaymaker’s oldest boy, who was standing beneath watching the machine, when it suddenly stopped work, and refused to move an inch.  Slaymaker accordingly pumped the tank full, and just as he stopped the mill began to pump like fury. Slaymaker, in alarm, procured a rope and tied one of the wings to a tree. When the tank was empty he tried to make the windmill fill it again, but the concern was immovable. Then Slaymaker waited for a couple of weeks, and carried the water up to the house in buckets, because he was afraid to fill the tank, when the mil might get to work at any moment. Finally, as there seemed to be no hope of the machinery getting all right again, he did pump the tank full, and then went to bed. That night there was the first hurricane ever known in that neighborhood. The windmill made about found hundred revolutions a minute, and left the bed of the stream below it completely dry, while it poured nearly six hundred gallons an hour into Slaymaker’s garret. The boarders all swam out the windows, and spent the rest of the night in the barn, while Slaymaker took to a tree, from which, at daylight, he had a magnificent view of the falls as they poured picturesquely from the attic windows every minute or two brining out with them a chair or a hair trunk, or one of Slaymaker’s shirts, or a waistband. Mrs. Slaymaker will not clean house this summer, but Slaymaker has a windmill that he is anxious to sell. He will probably close it out cheap to a purchasers who wants to take it away right off.–Max Adeler.”

Colorado Research Trip Pics

26 Mar

Just got back from my Colorado research trip. Very successful. I met with scientists and researchers from the Rocky Mountain Institute, UC Boulder, Colorado State, SunDrop Biofuels, the Denver International Airport’s solar installations, and other places. I learned a lot, got great material, and took a lot of pictures …

Rocky Mountain Institute office in Boulder, CO

Notice the straight air ducts descending diagonally from the ceiling. They’re designed to channel air more efficiently than ducts with numerous twists and turns. The RMI building also features windows specially treated to trap solar heat and lots of natural lighting.

RMI’s non-water-flushing toilet.

SunDrop Biofuel’s solar collecting tower. Thousands of mirrors reflect sunlight onto a large plate that heats to around 1200 degrees C. The heat is used to turn a mixture of woodchips and chemicals into gas that’s then refined into gasoline and diesel.

A smart grid test station at Colorado State, in Fort Collins.

A large wind turbine barely visible through a dense snowstorm at the National Wind Technology Center.

A many-tubed apparatus at NREL’s wind-to-hydrogen project using solar and wind-generated electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is stored and used in fuel cells and internal combustion engines.

Part of a wind turbine blade. These things are freaking huge. On the largest turbines, each blade is somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 feet long. So in terms of sheer length and width, a rotating large scale turbine is like a spinning football field.

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