Windmill with poppies

Photo: Shutterstock

Whether they're towering over vibrant Dutch flower fields or Californian slopes, windmills are one of mankind's oldest (and loveliest) energy machines.

The earliest windmills were mainly designed to grind grains for food production, but this breezy machinary has been adapted for many other industrial uses over the ages. The most recent incarnation of this technology converts wind power into a renewable energy source. Wind farms currently supply 3 percent of U.S. electricity, though that number is expected to jump to 30 percent by 2030.

Practical uses aside, these machines are also an aestheically surreal (and in many people's opinion, gorgeous) addition to many of Earth's landscapes.

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Wind turbine with star trails

Photo: slworking2/Flickr

Ocotillo, Calif.

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Windmill in Santorini, Greece

Photo: Shutterstock

Santorini, Greece

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Windmill and blue sky

Photo: Shutterstock

Castilla la Mancha, Spain

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Moon rise over wind turbines

Photo: Chuck Coker/Flickr

San Gorgonio Pass, White Water, Calif.

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Windmill and horses

Photo: Shutterstock

Kinderdijk, Holland, The Netherlands

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Beautiful windmill in snow

Photo: Camille Tulcan/Flickr

Sibiu, Romania

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Wind turbine with sheep

Photo: Shutterstock

Holland, The Netherlands

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Dutch windmill with bicycle

Photo: Shutterstock

Zaan, Holland, The Netherlands

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Windmills in Mykonos, Greece

Photo: Shutterstock

Mykonos, Greece

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Windmill in a village

Photo: Shutterstock

Solvang, Calif.

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Windmill in a flower field

Photo: Shutterstock

Holland, The Netherlands

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New wind turbine design

Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images

Dunkerque, France

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Windmills and pond

Photo: Shutterstock

Kinderdijk, Holland, The Netherlands

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Stone windmill

Photo: Shutterstock

Fuerteventura, Canary Islands, Spain

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Spinning windmill at night

Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images

Kinderdijk, Holland, The Netherlands

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Traditional windmill

Photo: Shutterstock

Holland, The Netherlands

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Catie Leary is a photo editor at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.
 

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