America’s Other Wind Industry

A windmill at the American Wind Power Center and Museum, another stop on our Texas wind-energy tour. Photo credit: David Ferris

Two weeks ago I decamped to Lubbock, Texas, for the 22nd annual conference of the Society of Environmental Journalists. A highlight of these conferences is fleeing the hotel for field trips to places I would never otherwise see. Last year, at the Miami conference, it was the Everglades; this year, it was the wind power installations on the plains of West Texas.

Our tour bus dropped in on Dusty Choate, a sales rep for Aermotor, the largest windmill manufacturer in the United States. Wait, windmills? Aren’t those relics from Holland, or maybe rusting behind a ranch somewhere in South Dakota? In fact the windmill business is alive — though not quite well. I just posted a story on Forbes about the prospects for the U.S. windmill industry, and its brightening opportunities on foreign shores.

Until one drives through West Texas, it’s hard to grasp just how littered with energy it is. At one point, I looked out the window to see, on a single stretch of flatland,  the bobbing heads of pumpjacks, giant cylindrical storage tanks, the flames of gas flares, and looming behind all of that, a bank of towering white wind turbines.

Texas is blessed with every kind of energy. One can only hope that the state figures out how to transition from the underground fossil sort — the kind that is dangerously warming our atmosphere, and that will eventually run out — to forms of power that rely on the sun and wind that bless those endless plains.

 

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