August 1, 2011
LUBBOCK — A century ago, Texas was covered with windmills, which pumped water from aquifers so cattle could drink and gardens could grow. Thousands of these old-style models still exist in remote pastures, but in recent years far taller and more powerful turbines have sprouted atop western mesas, transforming this oil and gas state into the national leader in wind-generated electrical power.
This evolution is on display at the American Wind Power Center in Lubbock, which bills itself as the world’s largest windmill museum. Dozens of old, clanking windmills occupy the grounds of a small, breezy hilltop, irrigating the grass, while a 165-foot-tall modern turbine, made by the Danish company Vestas, towers in the background and supplies the museum’s electricity. Long, sleek blades from another monster turbine, the first manufactured by General Electric, lie along the edge of the parking lot, awaiting the construction of a new wing the proprietors hope to build, finances permitting.
The museum is the culmination of more than 30 years of work by Billie Wolfe. Ms. Wolfe, who taught at the College of Home Economics at Texas Tech University, got interested in old windmills in the 1960s, and much later she teamed with Coy Harris, chief executive of the Wind Engineering Corporation, to create the museum, which was established in 1997. (Ms. Wolfe died earlier that year.)