Harnessing tradition

Combining traditional techniques and modern technology for new, sustainable solutions.

Traditional windmills and second-life electric motors are combined for a unique approach to green energy in Mallorca.

13 April, 2022

Could abandoned windmills dating back to the 14th century be ‘reactivated’ and used as a green energy source in the modern day

Traditional windmills dating back to the 14th century, the holiday of island of Mallorca and Audi e-tron models may not have much to do with one another at first glance. But one Audi employee, relaxing in Mallorca on holiday had different ideas.

Francisco Trigueros Morera de la Vall, the head of the innovative Project Microgrid, wondered if the abandoned windmills could be ‘reactivated’ and used as a green energy source in the modern day?

The biggest of the Balearic Islands is known for its thousands of windmills which were initially used as grain mills, then as groundwater pumps at the beginning of the twentieth century, but they’ve largely fallen out of use today, with fossil fuels currently used to generate power locally.

This is where the idea Trigueros came up with on holiday came into being. “We’re using both the windmills and the electric motors from Audi e-tron test vehicles for power generation,” Trigueros explains.

Three years after his initial idea, Trigueros and his colleagues inaugurated the first Microgrid windmill – named ‘Son España’ – in the village of Son Ferrol at the beginning of April 2022. It was built in 1925 and was the first one equipped with metal rotor blades.

To make the project work, Audi partnered with Spanish hotel chain Meliá to become the brand’s local partner and rent four Audi e-tron models to interested holiday-makers for drives around Mallorca.

Trigueros’s reasoning was that a relaxed holiday was the perfect time to experience electromobility and if just five percent of all hotel customers went on to buy an Audi e-tron, the project would be a financial success. In addition, the fleet’s annual energy consumption would be covered by the green energy from this alternative power source.

Francisco Trigueros Morera de la Vall, the head of the innovative Project Microgrid.

Depending on the size of the wind turbines, Trigueros promises 15kW of output or 22 MWh of energy per year – enough to charge an Audi e-tron with a 95-kWh battery 220 times. But it’s possible to achieve even more. With a more efficient wind turbine, the Audi e-tron motor could have continuous output of 40kW.

‘Son España’ has been integrated into Mallorca’s energy network, and while there are currently no plans to increase the scale of the project at this stage, Trigueros says “we’ve also thought more about what else can be done with the energy in future.” 

The renewable energy could be used for electrolysis for hydrogen or for stationary charging stations or power banks to charge electric cars. Fluctuations in the power grid could also be balanced out with the green energy. But the use of this environmentally friendly energy also depends on how things continue with the sustainability project itself. 

“It’s currently not planned to scale this up, but the principle would definitely be applicable on other islands,” Trigueros says.

Nevertheless, this is another example of looking at ways to maximise the useful life of various technologies – from 14th century windmills, to state-of-the-art lithium-ion batteries – and is perfectly in keeping with Audi’s ‘second-life’ philosophy.

This means that components should only be recycled if they’re no longer usable. If they work but maybe no longer sufficiently meet the requirements for their original intended purpose, it’s more environmentally friendly and saves resources to find an alternative use – as is the case inn Mallorca.

Current output is enough to charge an Audi e-tron with a 95-kWh battery 220 times a year