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Historic Windmills to Generate Renewable Energy

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3,000 years ago they powered waterwheels, in the future they will generate green electricity: traditional sailing windmills that students of the University of Technology, Business and Design in Konstanz rebuilt using high-tech components. Maintenance-free operation of windmills is ensured by grease-free linear lines and polymer bearings of the company igus, which is represented in the Czech Republic by the engineering company HENNLICH.

Wind turbines as an ecological alternative

Wind turbines are being built all over the world as part of the global energy transformation. However, there is not enough space for these giants everywhere. Nature conservation often poses obstacles. However, according to the students of the University of Technology, Business and Design in Konstanz, this is not a reason why we should do without wind energy. Instead, they want to rely on small windmills to produce green electricity. In their project Sailwind 4, the young engineers plan to restore the Greek sailing windmill, the oldest known device for the use of wind energy – today it is a cultural monument across the Mediterranean from Portugal to France. While 3,000 years ago mills powered water wheels to grow grain, in the future they will use a generator to produce green electricity. This has a clear advantage: thousands of mills already exist and can be retrofitted as mini-power plants to produce green electricity.

Grease-free components reduce maintenance costs

In addition to the financial support of the project, igus also supplies free components for the construction of innovative windmills. When rebuilding the first windmill, the students will visually preserve the typical features of the historical model: the cylindrical body of the mill and the conical construction of the roof. The same applies to sails that rest on the main rotating shaft. Engineers will replace them with high-tech sails and connect the shaft to an electricity generator. At a wind speed of 14 m/s, the windmill should then be able to produce 5 kWp of electricity – which would be enough to supply a restaurant, hotel or small business. A small wind turbine can also be combined with a photovoltaic system and battery storage. „Perhaps there are similar old, unused windmills in the Czech Republic that could be converted into wind power plants. Compared to coastal areas, however, it is obvious that the Czech Republic will never be a powerhouse in the production of electricity using windmills,“ estimates Tomáš Vlk, product manager for igus smart plastics at the HENNLICH company.

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