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Texas Museum Features 170 Windmills
“It’s a dynamic museum because the windmills are always moving,” says Coy Harris, executive director of the American Windpower Center and Museum in Lubbock, Texas. Outside, about 60 windmills on the 28-acre property provide a symphony of old water windmill squeaks and modern wind turbine whooshes. When the wind picks up, the smallest turbines make the biggest noise.
    Another 110 of the oldest and most unusual windmills are housed inside a 36,000 sq. ft. visitor center, along with collections of windmill weights, salesman windmill models and other related items. A 34 by 172-ft detailed mural of the history of the windmill from the 1700’s to the present creates a beautiful backdrop for the collections, as well as for the social and community events booked at the center.
    “The goal of the center is to save a disappearing artifact,” Coy says. In the 1960’s, Billie Wolfe, a home economics teacher at Texas Technological College, recognized the windmill’s importance, and that they were vanishing from the American landscape. She started collecting them, one at a time, with the support of the college and started a museum. The collection got a significant boost in 1993, when private Nebraska collector Don Hundley agreed to sell his entire collection – including 48 windmills, 171 weights and 56 pumps – to the museum. Hundley had turned down other collectors, including the Smithsonian, because they wouldn’t guarantee the collection would stay together.
    Harris, CEO of Wind Engineering, helped Wolfe establish the nonprofit National Windmill Project to raise money and move and reassemble the windmills.
    The city of Lubbock donated the land in the summer of 1997. Wolfe passed away later that year and never got to see the center and the result of her years of work.
    Three windmills pump water to irrigate the property. A modern V47 Vestas 500kW wind turbine supplies the electrical needs of the building – plus extra kilowatts that are sold to the local power utility.
    Visitors can walk inside the base of a 165-ft. tall turbine with a 150-ft. diameter wheel to learn how it works. They can inspect a replica of the first windmill built in America in 1621 that was used to grind grain. Outside they can check out an unusual twin-wheel windmill built in the 1920’s that used one gearbox and one tower to pump more water than single windmills.
    “Inside we have one of the first all-metal windmills that looks like a kid’s pinwheel and cost $145,” Coy notes. There are wood and steel versions, and even Australian and Argentine models. At one time, 700 companies manufactured windmills, he notes.
    Videos and more information are available on the center’s website. The center is open year round Tuesday to Saturday and on Sundays from May through September. Admission is $5/person, $10/family of four and free to active duty military and their families.
    Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, American Windpower Center and Museum, 1701 Canyon Lake Dr., Lubbock, Texas 79403 (ph 806 747-8734; www.windmill.com).

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2013 - Volume #37, Issue #2