Anyone who has visited Lubbock knows that the wind blows the tumbleweed across the wide-open South Plains of Texas.
Such a gusty location is fitting for the American Wind Power Center.
The center owes its creation to Billie Wolfe, a Texas Tech faculty member who had a decades-long fascination with windmills.
In 1993, she secured the premier collection of early American windmills from a windmill museum in Nebraska with a promise to keep the collection intact.
Then Wolfe and Lubbock native Coy Harris spearheaded a fund-raising campaign to build a museum. In mid-1997, the city offered the group a parcel of land; sadly, Wolfe died late that year before the first windmill was erected.
The 28-acre tract now houses a museum with more than 100 windmills inside and more than 50 windmills outside on the rolling — by West Texas standards — hills.
“We have the largest collection of water-pump windmills in the world,” said Glenn Patton, director of development.
Windmills were developed in the mid-1800s and were used mostly as water pumpers. They were phased out in the past few decades, and only two companies manufacture water-pumping windmills. A newer, sleeker version, the wind turbine, which generates electricity, is generating interest.
To show visitors the different styles of wind turbines, 10 mini wind turbines are being installed. The center plans to open a three-story Wind Energy Experience with a full-scale General Electric wind turbine as a focal point.
“It’s an $8 million addition that is going to be quite the endeavor,” said Patton.
The center’s covered patio, which can be enclosed when needed, is a popular group venue for receptions and dinners to trade shows and family reunions.
It is far more than concrete and metal walls because of a 6,000-square-foot mural created over two years on two of the walls. The massive mural depicts the history of the windmill.
“We provide narration of the mural for educational purposes,” said Patton.