The gentle giants of the Aussie Outback
Over the last two hundred years, tens of thousands of windmills have been installed on farms, rural properties and communities all across the Australian outback. They were, for a long time, crucial to living in the harsh climates that Australia possesses away from the coastal regions.
While there are other technologies, and indeed other methods of harvesting water on rural properties, be it diesel or solar pumps, or rainwater tanks; windmills continue to be constructed across this great southern land of ours.
But what happens to these friendly giants, monoliths of the Australian outback, once they have reached the end of their service life, or are no longer required on the land they have served for so long?
Many, it is true, and sad to say, stand abandoned against brown and red landscapes, slowly becoming dilapidated over time, as one missed service caused a chain reaction of events that renders them in a state of disrepair. Many, however, continue to spin, or move on to serve other purposes.
One of the great things about windmills being such sturdy, long lasting pieces of machinery, is that once they are no longer required in their current location they can be dismantled and moved to another location – even on another property – and continue pumping for years to come.
Some windmills have seen several homes, and many people are on the search for second hand windmills, as they know they will often still be in perfect working order, and if purchased locally, often cheaper than buying a new windmill for their property.
Some people even purchase old windmills purely for aesthetic purposes, which brings us to our next option.
A lot of people love the look of a windmill, even if they don’t need a functioning one on their property. A lot of hobby farms install decommissioned windmills on the property, near homes, chook pens, or farming areas, majestically spinning in the breeze, to add some rustic charm to the property.
The Gilgandra Museum and Historical Society has a near-century-old 7.3m windwheel out the front of the museum that still spins as freely as the day it was built, and routinely only requires a top up of oil when serviced.
In a less typical method of displaying a windmill, The Creek Early Learning centre on the Sunshine Coast features a beautifully painted Southern Cross windmill as a part of its gorgeously designed outdoor play area.
Windmills also spin proudly outside the Waltzing Matilda Centre in Winton, the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame in Longreach, Pumps ‘n’ Solar in Roma, and many other locations around Australia.
Across the country, many windmills also adorn shed walls, bars and roadhouses, so iconic and synonymous with the Australian outback they have become.
The biggest advantage of using galvanised steel to make windmills, is that steel is fully recyclable and can be melted down to produce other products – perhaps even new windmills!
All steel parts of a Southern Cross windmill are fully recyclable, meaning it won’t end up in landfill, leaving less of an environmental footprint after its service life is over.
In 2020 alone, China recycled 260 million tonnes of scrap steel, and are looking to increase this output moving forward, with many other countries set to follow suit, as demands on international steel continue to rise. Recycled steel has the advantage over iron ore of not requiring as much coal to fire it, as the iron oxides have already been transformed into a steel product.
Unlike a lot of other recyclable materials, many places offer money for scrap metal, meaning that at the end of your windmills service life, not only will it have been a worthwhile investment pumping water for decades, it might even make you some money back while you help save the planet.