Sustainable Energy: Then & Now

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A mid-December trip took me on roads I had never traveled before, much to my delight. I had traveled through Lubbock before, but never had the opportunity to spend any significant time there.  My nephew’s graduation from Texas Tech University gave me that opportunity as well as new sights to see along a new route. Exploring really is my first love.

My oldest grandson was making the trip with me and while he was totally absorbed in his phone; I was engrossed in watching the changing landscape. The drive had progressed well for several hours as we traveled through little towns, making a turn here or there.  Two courthouses called me to remember them on the way home (I did) and I found a world of sheep and wool processing I didn’t know existed. The country grew more and more rugged as the morning went by; the temperature dropped, too.

Then over the top of an approaching hill appeared three windmills, new large modern sleek bladed windmills. Suddenly I had the grandson’s full attention.  We quickly found a place to pull over and were snapping pictures like typical tourists.  Looking back we laughed at ourselves, but at that time we were in awe.  Windmills right before our eyes.  Little did we know that we would see many, many more as we passed farm after farm. Some blades turning, others still, some in groups, and all facing many directions. I was still in awe and we stopped again to make more pictures.

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The weekend passed, my nephew graduated, we celebrated and packed up his apartment. On Sunday morning we began the trip home, retracing our path from the trip north.  Only this time I realized we had been climbing on the previous trip; we rounded a curve and there below was the most amazing view of the Texas Panhandle Plains.  It was a cold, hazy morning, but even in the limited visibility it was beautiful.

As we descended into the valley my thoughts turned, as they often do, to those who had first come to this area.  The Native Americans, the explorers, and the first settlers who carved out homesteads and ranches in this harsh land.  I imagined those cold mornings in a wood house (or less) with no running water and possibly no real fireplace to generate any warmth.  Walking out into the cold to feed livestock and perform chores.  The challenge of scraping an existence from a rugged, barren landscape.  The threat of natural disaster as well as attack from hostile Indians was always there. Many moved on, many did not survive, yet somehow others learned to adapt and co-exist with the land. It was difficult, and yet they persisted and they overcame.  They survived.

Soon we passed a small ravine where a traditional windmill was working, blades spinning and, presumably, pumping water into the nearby tank. Many of these familiar icons have disappeared over the years as electric pumps took their place and the windmill was left to deteriorate.  This one was fairly new and in good order. The hardy, adaptable settlers realized the value of the wind that never ceased; they dug wells, hooked up the windmill and had water for themselves and their livestock. The wind was a sustainable resource that brought improvement to their lives.

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Windmill at the Hill County Safety Stop along I-35 South

On the surrounding hills the modern, technology driven windmills were also working, capturing that same wind and funneling its energy from the sky into electricity for millions of homes (including my own).  The wind farms are a little more complicated than pumping water into a tank, but they have provided a much needed method to generate electricity using a sustainable energy. Yes, they changed the landscape and the environmentalists think they are damaging, but they really aren’t intrusive and when you realize the service they provide the offset isn’t catastrophic.

I marveled at the idea of the old and the new working side by side, both using a resource that was readily available and would never run out or pollute the earth.

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Decorative windmill on display Becker Vineyards, Fredericksburg Texas