Blowin’ in the wind
Centuries-old technology is teaming with modern day science and Queensland’s resources to generate sustainable energy.
Windmills were once used to grind grain, pump water or as metaphors in literary works such as Don Quixote. Today they are being redesigned and used around the globe to harness wind to generate electricity.
But rather than brick or mud stacks with rotating arms made with cloth sails, these modern wind mills are at the forefront of engineering design and efficiency.
These towering structures require significant input from the natural resources sector of Australia, particularly Queensland. For example, each part of a wind turbine relies on steel.
The generator is 66 percent steel and 35 percent copper. The blades are held in place by steel bolts, and the foundations are made from concrete that is reinforced with steel rods.
The towers are 90 percent steel.
Queensland’s contribution to the modern day windmills is significant.
Approximately 70 percent of steel is made using coking coal, with Queensland the world’s largest seaborne exporter of coking coal.
In simple terms it takes 220 tonnes of coal to produce a wind turbine capable of generating 1 megawatt of electricity which is sufficient to power around 40 Queensland homes when running at full capacity.