As our bus unloaded its forty passengers in front of Iraan’s Community Center, Iraan, Texas – not the country Iran, we cannot help but see what makes Iraan famous: a 112′ long windmill blade and statues of Alley Oop and his pet Dinny, the dinosaur. V.T. Hamlin, a newspaper reporter in town, conceived of the idea of a comic strip featuring the antics of a stone age caveman, Alley Oop. Its popularity rivaled Dick Tracy and Superman.
Iraan derives its unusual name from its founders and benefactors, Ira and Ann Yates, who struck it rich with black gold (oil). Because of their generosity to the boomtown, which grew up around them, the citizens honored them by naming their town after Ira and Ann.
Our real reason for taking the 262 plus mile trip Northwest from San Antonio, Texas was to see that 112′ windmill blade do its thing, make electricity from wind. CPS, City Public Services of San Antonio, sponsored this tour of The Desert Sky Wind Farm. Before meeting with these quiet giants we had to be put in the proper mood: full stomachs. Before boarding the bus at 7:00 A. M. at Fiesta Texas parking lot we gnoshed our way through breakfast tacos, juices and coffee. After a long four hour ride to our destination we were ready to chow down again: Texas style: all you could eat brisket Bar-B-Q, beans, mustard potato salad, sliced onions, pickles, jalapenos, and for dessert, banana cream pudding.
We were greeted by Roy Blackshear, the Desert Sky Plant Manager, who gave us an overview about the wind farm. After photo ops with the blade, Dinny and Alley Oop we boarded our bus for the farm.
In the distance we could see hundreds of three blade wind mills slow dancing in the West Texas hazy sky. As we climbed to the top of Indian Mesa and drove among these mills, our jaws dropped at their size. We were told that the tower rises 213 feet into the sky, plus 112 feet more for the blade. What looked like a slow dance was really the tips of the blades going more than 170 mph, one complete revolution every three to five and a half seconds. The hub housing can hold three adults with room to spare and the housing for the turbine generator, computers, and drive shaft is larger than a forty-foot motor home. We were allowed inside the base of the tower, seven of us at a time to view the wiring, panels and ladder to the top. Climb it? You jest.
Outside the only sound is the wind. The mill barely whispers and generates electricity for forty homes. The 107 windmills of Desert Sky provide the energy for 40,000 homes in San Antonio. Desert Sky is not the only wind farm in the area. Others provide power for Dallas, Houston, and other cities. Economically speaking, they do not produce energy at rock bottom prices. Each mill cost about 1.2 million dollars to build and has the life expectancy of twenty years. The wind, however, is renewable energy and as the technology improves, which is happening, the initial cost will be reduced.
In conjunction with the new Stillwater Wind Farm and the solar panels around the Tower of the Americas, renewable energy accounts for ten percent of the power supplied to San Antonio. Most of the towers are manufactured in Germany, while a growing number are coming out of Minnesota. American Electric Power owns and operated the farms and sells the energy to CPS. The Enron Symbol you see on the housing refers to the days when Enron operated the mills.