As beautiful as they are to look at, windmills helped make life in West Texas possible. Many have been torn down over the years, but now, they're making a comeback, in a different style.
For hundreds of years people have harnessed the wind's energy to do everything from grind grain to pump water. It's what made life possible on a dry stretch of West Texas we call the South Plains. Due to the lack of water, settling down was nearly impossible.
Enter the windmill. Folks tapped into the area's aquifers, opening up farming and ranching in an area once thought unlivable. Today, you can look back on the past right here in the Hub City.
"We are a windmill museum," American Wind Power Center Executive Director Coy Harris said.
The American Wind Power Center in Lubbock is the most comprehensive collection of historic windmills in the world. "We show these; we demonstrate them; we preserve them. People can come out here, learn how the windmill works," Harris said.
A more recent development across the South Plains is wind turbines. "A great big one runs the whole place," Harris said about the center.
"You know, people always complain about the wind here. I think more and more people will see it's one of our greatest natural resources," State Representative Carl Isett said.
The U.S. is the fastest growing wind power market in the world according to a 2007 Department of Energy report. Texas is the leading wind state in the U.S. with close to one-third of the nation's wind capacity.
The Panhandle, Gulf Coast, and mountain passes in Texas have some of the greatest wind power potential on the continent. Currently West Texas has more than 2,000 turbines, with more expected.
Texas Tech University is home to the Wind Science and Engineering Research Center, which maintains a national and international reputation for expertise in wind related research.
"Windmills are marvels of engineering. Really, when you thing about what they have to do, but they're also, we think, works of art," Harris said.
Developed out of necessity, and brought back to life as a new way to power the South Plains, the wind mill. Harris tells us they hope to add a wind electricity building to the wind power center to teach people more about this clean, renewable source of energy.
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