For Over 1400 Years, Mankind Has Harnessed The Power Of The Wind!

Categories: Energy

On 1 Nov 644, the caliph Omar is reputed to have asked a Persian slave, Abū Lo’lo’a, about a boast he had made that he would build a mill driven by the wind. The slave answered “By God, I will build this mill, of which the world will talk” – and talk the world still does, especially since Abū Lo’lo’a stabbed the Caliph to death on the following day. Al-Masudi (c.956) quotes Tabari (834-922) with this story.

Al-Masudi, his contemporary Istahri (c.951), and then the later geographer Al-Qazvini (d.1283) all wrote about Sistan, in eastern Persia, as the land of wind: “There the wind is never still”. The ruins of one of the massive, isolated mills in Sistan remains from the “prosperous days” of Malek Ḥamza (1619-45), is pictured in black and white below.

In fact the famous 120-day-wind (bād-e sad-o-bīst rūz) affects both eastern Khorasan and Sistan (in the late summer and early autumn); and there are still some vertical axis windmills (called asiabad locally) in Khorasan – perhaps most famously in Nishtafun. Usually, only one is occasionally operational.  Although Iran’s Cultural Heritage News Agency (CHN) reported on the threat facing ‘the world’s oldest windmills’ in 2006

Google Earth view of the three banks of windmills at Nishtafun

You can see how these windmills work if you click here – the wind is screened off from the sails except to propel them round. The animation does not show how the wind entry often has to be moderated using reeds or a curtain over the wind-slit: the wind locally is often at galeforce. And if you want to see how the actual milling parts work, click here, and find the second Figure, Fig 52.

If you want to know exactly where the windmills are, simply search for ‘nishtafun’ on Google Earth: you can then clearly see the three banks of mills (90m, 55m and 15m), just to the west of where Google Earth will take you. Notice the blank area just behind the mills, allowing for the wind to blow unimpeded.

source: Caroline Mawer

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