Blown away! Are the Outback’s iconic windmills running out of puff?

Published: October 20, 2023

Old-style windmills are an iconic part of Outback travel for many grey nomads but, sadly, it seems they soon may be a thing of the past … literally.

The ABC reports that the South Australian Windmill Contractors Association has called it a day due to ongoing difficulties in recruiting people to carry out vital maintenance work.

Former association treasurer Leon Yates said the number of contractors across the state had gone from about 25 businesses to five or so operators to repair and maintain the windmills that were still standing.

“Contractors are retiring, dying, and there’s no one replacing them,” he told the ABC.

Mr Yates said the dangers associated with climbing up to maintain a windmill deterred many from entering the industry.

“The average windmill found around the south-east has a nine-metre tower with a three to four metre head – the bit that goes round,” he said. “You get a sudden wind change and the fan can swing around and knock you off the platform boards, so you have to be very conscious of where you are and the situation you are in.”

The General manager of Telopea Downs in western Victoria told the ABC that the old windmills had been replaced by solar-powered submersible pumps, each doing the job of up to four windmills.

“Even in the winter, with the solar set-ups you’re still getting at least four hours of pumping and it’s not wind-affected at all,” he said.

Across large areas of Australia, windmills have played a vital role, allowing country with no surface water to be opened up for grazing.

As they slowly vanish from the landscape, they will be sorely missed by grey nomads, and many others.

“There’s nothing better than seeing the windmill ticking away with the sun setting or the sun rising behind it,” Drew Maxwell from Telopea Downs told the ABC.

  • Do you enjoy seeing old windmills in the Outback? Have you noticed there are less of them around these days? Comment below.

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The windmills along the Barkley Highway are no longer there, not sure how long ago they were dismantled, not the same with them gone.

Yes windmills certainly have some probs. When wind is light but in the outback can pump 24 hours a day depending- and with good maintenance can last up to 60 to 80 yrs or longer-
Maintenance with bores can be dicey too with sanding up /. Blocking etc and panels don’t last forever and lose efficiency over time – a combination of both at certain locations seems to work !!

During my extensive travels through WA I have seen dozens of windmills that have either fallen over or are in a complete state of disrepair.
Solar panels are doing the same job now.
Many farm houses are abandoned, with farms all gobbled up by the big conglomerates, with associated efficiences minimising the need for staff.
Fewer staff = fewer houses, so these houses simply rot away and collapse. Sad.
Returned to a 70,000 property that 45 years ago had several houses, 20 staff and even its own store when I worked there. Now owned by Chinese, and has 3 staff.


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