From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Wind pump)
Jump to: navigation, search
A multi-bladed windpump on a farm in Iowa

A windpump is a type of windmill which is used for pumping water.


Windpumps were used to pump water since at least the 9th century in what is now Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan.[1] The use of wind pumps became widespread across the Muslim world and later spread to China and India.[2] Windmills were later used extensively in Europe, particularly in the Netherlands and the East Anglia area of Great Britain, from the late Middle Ages onwards, to drain land for agricultural or building purposes.

Simon Stevin's work in the waterstaet involved improvements to the sluices and spillways to control flooding. Windmills were already in use to pump the water out but in Van de Molens (On mills), he suggested improvements including the idea that the wheels should move slowly and a better system for meshing of the gear teeth. These improvements increased the efficiency of the windmills used to pump water out of the polders by three times.[3] He received a patent on his innovation in 1586.[4]

Eight- to ten-bladed windmills were used in the Region of Murcia, Spain, to raise water for irrigation purposes.[5] The drive from the windmill's rotor was led down through the tower and back out through the wall to turn a large wheel known as a noria. The noria supported a bucket chain which dangled down into the well. The buckets were traditionally made of wood or clay. These windmills remained in use until the 1950s, and many of the towers are still standing.

Early immigrants to the New World brought with them the technology of windmills from Europe.[6] On US farms, particularly on the Great Plains, wind pumps were used to pump water from farm wells for cattle. In California and some other states, the windmill was part of a self-contained domestic water system including a hand-dug well and a redwood water tower supporting a redwood tank and enclosed by redwood siding (tankhouse). The self-regulating farm wind pump was invented by Daniel Halladay in 1854.[6][7][8] Eventually, steel blades and steel towers replaced wooden construction, and at their peak in 1930, an estimated 600,000 units were in use, with capacity equivalent to 150 megawatts.[9] Early wind pumps directly operated the pump shaft from a crank attached to the rotor of the windmill; the installation of back gearing between wind rotor and pump crank allowed the pump to function at lower wind speeds.

The multi-bladed wind pump or wind turbine atop a lattice tower made of wood or steel hence became, for many years, a fixture of the landscape throughout rural America. These mills, made by a variety of manufacturers, featured a large number of blades so that they would turn slowly with considerable torque in low winds and be self-regulating in high winds. A tower-top gearbox and crankshaft converted the rotary motion into reciprocating strokes carried downward through a rod to the pump cylinder below. Today, rising energy costs and improved pumping technology are increasing interest in the use of this once declining technology.

Worldwide use[edit]

A working wooden windpump on The Fens in Cambridgeshire, UK

The Netherlands is well known for its windmills. Most of these iconic structures situated along the edge of polders are actually windpumps, designed to drain the land. These are particularly important as much of the country lies below sea level.

In the UK, the term windpump is seldom used, and they are better known as drainage windmills. Many of these were built in The Broads and The Fens of East Anglia for the draining of land, but most of them have since been replaced by diesel or electric powered pumps. Many of the original windmills still stand in a derelict state although some have been restored.

Windpumps are used extensively in Southern Africa, Australia, and on farms and ranches in the central plains and Southwest of the United States. In South Africa and Namibia thousands of windpumps are still operating. These are mostly used to provide water for human use as well as drinking water for large sheep stocks.

Kenya has also benefited from the African development of windpump technologies. At the end of the 1970s, the UK NGO Intermediate Technology Development Group provided engineering support to the Kenyan company Bobs Harries Engineering Ltd for the development of the Kijito windpumps. Bobs Harries Engineering Ltd is still manufacturing the Kijito windpumps, and more than 300 of them are operating in the whole of East Africa.

In many parts of the world, a rope pump is being used in conjunction with wind turbines. This easy-to- construct pump works by pulling a knotted rope through a pipe (usually a simple PVC pipe) causing the water to be pulled up into the pipe. This type of pump has become common in Nicaragua and other places.


To construct a windpump, the bladed rotor needs to be matched to the pump. With non-electric windpumps, high solidity rotors are best used in conjunction with positive displacement (piston) pumps, because single-acting piston pumps need about three times as much torque to start them as to keep them going. Low solidity rotors, on the other hand, are best used with centrifugal pumps, waterladder pumps and chain and washer pumps, where the torque needed by the pump for starting is less than that needed for running at design speed. Low solidity rotors are best used if they are intended to drive an electricity generator; which in turn can drive the pump.[10]

Multi-bladed Windpumps[edit]

Wind powered water pump on Oak Park Farm, Shedd, Oregon.

Multi-bladed wind pumps can be found worldwide and are manufactured in the United States, Argentina, China, New Zealand, and South Africa. A 16 ft (4.8 m) diameter wind pump can lift up to 1600 US gallons (about 6.4 metric tons) of water per hour to an elevation of 100 ft with a 15 to 20 mph wind (24–32 km/h).[11] A properly designed wind pump begins working in a 3-4 mph (5 to 6.5 km/h) wind. Wind pumps require little maintenance—usually only a change of gear box oil annually.[12] An estimated 60,000 wind pumps are still in use in the United States. They are particularly attractive for use at remote sites where electric power is not available and maintenance is difficult to provide.

General Efficiency[edit]

Aerodynamic efficiency of multi-bladed wind rotor is equal to 30%.[13] A multi-bladed windpump is around 4%–8% efficient for a common[14] This is the system efficiency at moderate wind speeds which defined as "potential energy given to pumped water / kinetic energy of blowing wind through the rotor swept area". Actually, the system efficiency decreases from 20% to 4% when wind speed increases.[15] Reason of decreasing efficiency is based on insufficient energy matching between wind rotor and fixed-stroke piston pump.

Fundamental Problems of Multi-bladed Windpumps[edit]

Inefficient Rotor[edit]

A multi-bladed rotor is a drag type rotor with an aerodynamic efficiency of 30%.[16] On the other hand, modern wind rotors have an aerodynamic efficiency of more than 40%.[16] The main advantage of a multi-bladed rotor is "high starting torque", which is necessary for fix-stroke piston pump operation. If a variable-stroke operation is possible, high starting torque is unnecessary, so it is possible to use high efficient modern wind rotors with variable-stroke piston pump.

Insufficient Energy Matching[edit]

A multi-bladed windmill is a mechanical device with a piston pump. Because a piston pump has a fixed stroke, the energy demand of this type of pump is proportional to pump speed only. On the other hand, the energy supply of a wind rotor is proportional to the cube of wind speed. Because of that, a wind rotor runs at over speed (more speed than needed), yielding a loss of aerodynamic efficiency. As a result, changes in wind speed directly affect the overall efficiency of the system.[17]

Variable stroke technology gives an opportunity to control the rotor speed according to wind speed. It seems like "variable-speed generator technology". By the way, it can be possible to prevent insufficient energy matching at windpumps. Flow rate of variable stroke windpump can be increased two times according to fixed stroke windpumps at the same wind speed.[18]

More detailed informations can be found in the book named "The Fundamentals of Wind Driven Water-Pumpers" by J.A.C. Kentfield, 1996.

Oscillation of Rotor Speed[edit]

A piston pump does not need energy during suction phase, but wind rotor keeps to extract energy from the wind. It causes oscillation of the wind rotor speed and aerodynamic efficiency loss because of oscillation. Counterbalance technology provides short term energy storage like flywheel. By the way smooth loading of the wind rotor could be possible. This simple solution prevents oscillation.[17]

Experimental Works on New Generation Windpumps[edit]

Although multi-bladed windpumps have proven technology and widely used, they have got fundamental problems mentioned above. Development works focused on variable stroke technology and counterbalance technology.

USDA Experiments at Texas[edit]

Between 1988 and 1990, a variable stroke windpump was tested at USDA-Agriculture Research Center-Texas, based on two patented designs. (Don E. Avery Patent #4.392.785, 1983 and Elmo G. Harris Patent #617.877, 1899) [18] Control system of variable stroke windpump was all mechanical and hydraulic. But those experiments did not attract attention of any windpump manufacturer. After the experiment of variable stroke windpump, researches focused on wind-electric water pumping systems and no commercial variable stroke windpump exist yet.

Turkish Experiments[edit]

A Turkish engineer re-designed the variable stroke windpump technology by using modern electronic control equipment. Research were started in 2004 with governmental R&D support. The first commercial new generation variable stroke winpump have been designed after ten years of R&D. The 30 kW variable stroke windpump design also includes Darrieus type modern wind rotor, counterbalance and regenerative brake technology. Turkish innovations are creating a rebirth of ancient mechanical windpump technology.[19]



Main article: tjasker
The tjasker

In the Netherlands, the tjasker is a drainage mill with common sails connected to the Archimedean screw. This is used for raising water in areas where only a small lift is required. The windshaft sits on a tripod which allows it to pivot. The Archimedean screw raises water into a collecting ring, where it is drawn off into a ditch at a higher level, thus draining the land.[20]

Thai windpumps[edit]

In Thailand, windpumps are traditionally built on Chinese windpump designs. These pumps are constructed from wire-braced bamboo poles carrying fabric or bamboo-mat sails; a paddle pump or waterladder pump is fixed to a Thai bladed rotor. They are mainly used in salt pans where the water lift required is typically less than 1 metre.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lucas, Adam (2006), Wind, Water, Work: Ancient and Medieval Milling Technology, Brill Publishers, p. 65, ISBN 90-04-14649-0 
  2. ^ Donald Routledge Hill, "Mechanical Engineering in the Medieval Near East", Scientific American, May 1991, p. 64-69. (cf. Donald Routledge Hill, Mechanical Engineering)
  3. ^ The Story of Science: Power, Proof & Passion - EP4: Can We Have Unlimited Power?
  4. ^ Sarton, George (1934). "Simon Stevin of Bruges (1548-1620)". Isis 21 (2): 241–303. doi:10.1086/346851. 
  5. ^ Water-lifting mills in the Region of Murcia, Spain
  6. ^ a b "Brief History of Windmills in the New World"
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Paul Gipe, Wind Energy Comes of Age, John Wiley and Sons, 1995 ISBN 0-471-10924-X, pages 123-127
  10. ^ Water lifting devices; matching bladed rotors to pumps
  11. ^ Iron Man Windmill Website pumping capacity calculator, retrieved January 15, 2011
  12. ^ Aermotor Web site frequently asked questions, retrieved Sept. 17, 2008
  13. ^ Hau, Erich "Wind Turbines", 2005, page 101, Fig.5-10
  14. ^ Argaw,N.,"Renewable Energy for Water Pumping Applications in Rural Villages",2003,NREL Report 30361,page 27
  15. ^ Brian Vick, Nolan Clark "Performance and Economic Comparison of a Mechanical Windmill to Wind-Electric Water Pumping System", 1997, USDA-Agricultural Research Service, see Figure-2
  16. ^ a b Hau, Erich "Wind Turbines", 2005, page 101, Fig.5-10
  17. ^ a b Argaw,N.,"Renewable Energy for Water Pumping Applications in Rural Villages",2003,NREL Report 30361,page 29
  18. ^ a b Clark, Nolan "Variable Stroke Pumping for Mechanical Windmills", 1990, AWEA Proceedings
  19. ^ ENA Yelkapan Technologies Ltd.
  20. ^ "The types of windmills". Odur. Retrieved 2008-05-24. 
  21. ^ Smulders, P.T. (January 1996). "Wind water pumping: the forgotten option". Energy for Sustainable Development 11 (5). 
  22. ^ Coil pump frequently used for windpump construction

External links[edit]