It should go without saying that wind and wind noise do not cause cancer. Anybody with a synapse-firing brain can deduce this fact. However, there is a difference between windmills and wind turbines, but it’s not as big a difference as you might think. They’re both using wind to power their mechanisms, but the way in which they use this natural resource is what distinguishes between the two. Let’s dive in, shall we?

Windmills

You frequently see windmills on farms, or the cover of Don Quixote books. Yes, yes. Wind Farms are where the turbines reside, but regular farming farms are where the windmills are at. Windmills use wind to power the mechanism, which is made up of vanes that work the camshaft connected to gears and rods that are connected to two millstones at the base that grind, or mill (hence the name), grain. The shapes of these windmills with their larger base are due to the size of the millstones at the bottom of the entire mechanism. Wind propels the vanes and sets the whole thing in motion. Windpumps have the same mechanics, but they’re used to draw water up from the ground and push it into a well.

Windmill technology has been around – and stayed much the same – since the 7th century when it was created in a region that is now Iran and Afghanistan. A century later this new development in farming was used widely in the Middle East as well as China, where European explorers found and bought the technology. The most notable region where windmills flourish today are the Netherlands, where windpumps were used to drain their flood plains in the 14th century. The inconsistency and unpredictability of wind led to the decline of windmills during the Industrial Revolution, though windmills are still used today.

Wind Turbines

So for the windmill, the force of the wind is used for one very specific task. Wind turbines, on the other hand, take this renewable resource and harness its power to create power for electrical use. Turbines convert the wind into energy that is either stored in a battery for later use, used in electrical equipment, or transported across power lines. These turbines work like a regular motor, only backwards. Instead of using electricity to create movement, the movement from the wind creates the energy.

Turbines have been used for powering electrics since the late 1880s in Scotland. The very first wind turbine was used in Vermont during the 40s. Unfortunately, the fossil fuel industry played a major role in preventing this renewable energy from spreading earlier in our country’s time. Fortunately, when the oil and gas industry suffered a comeuppance in the 70s, it was clear we needed an alternative solution and thus wind energy so a resurgence. Since that time nations all over the world have been investing  in wind energy. The largest wind farm in America is in Kern County, California, where over 300 wind turbines are kept.

So Why Wind?

Well, why not? The wind will blow whether or not we choose to take advantage of its power, we may as well use it. But more than that, these turbines don’t have emissions, and are therefore considered a clean energy source. They can be used in large farms or in a different set-up for residential use. Wind energy is also among the cheapest types of wind energy costing mere pennies per kilowatt.

However, every action has an equal or greater reaction. It’s more expensive to install a wind farm than regular fossil fuel systems, so recovering the costs takes years. They also have an impact on the wildlife where they are built, whether it’s on land or offshore. Technology is coming to reduce the danger to birds and bats, but in some areas, the amount of land or sea that needs clearing to house these metal giants directly impacts the habitats for wildlife. And due to the amount of space required for turbines means more densely populated areas are less likely to reap the benefits of this resource. And on days when the wind doesn’t blow, the turbine doesn’t work.

All this being said, in order to improve our environment and protect the planet for future generations, solutions need to be explored and expanded. Wind energy isn’t the only type of clean energy available to us, but it’s one worth investing in to invest in our future. As for the noise… it might be unpleasant, but it certainly won’t give you cancer.