I spent Friday morning in a comfortable coffee shop owned by the sister-in-law of my host. It was roomy with mosaic tables, good coffee and friendly service. A patio extended along the rear wall overlooking a creek, trees and shrubbery. I wrote, I surfed, I uploaded pictures. I had a nice lunch. It continued to rain intermittently.
Later that afternoon, I decided to visit some local companies involved in the wind industry. The first was Zoltek, a carbon fiber manufacturer which had a plant in Abilene. They make strands of very light yet extraordinarily strong material that can be used in large wind turbine blades.
An easygoing guy in a green polo and jeans named Joe met with me for a few minutes and chatted about the technology, the applications, the wind business. He pointed me to a company down the street that made towers for wind turbines. I thanked him and headed over, the rain coming down in sheets at this point.
Around the Tower Tech parking lot, I caught a glimpse of Vestas tower sections sitting behind a fenced area. When I took my camera into the front office, a secretary stonewalled me and said I needed written permission in order to access the facility. I headed back out on the road, wondering how to make something out of the rest of the day.
I ran a few errands, avoiding giant puddles along the streets. Willis Avenue was flooded in places with some residents unable to take their cars down their driveways into pools of water. Cars sprayed water on each other as they drove by. My windshield was smacked with sheets of water every few minutes. However, as I cruised around, the rain stopped and dashes of blue came across the sky. I checked the radar and noticed a gap in the storms and thought I’d race over to the Horse Hollow Wind Farm I visited the previous day to try to take some dynamic wind-turbine-on-wicked-sky pictures. As I got on the highway, a rainbow appeared in the distance.
I tried to race up 351 to the wind farm but the turbines in the distance remained small for far too long. By the time I got there, the gray skies had gotten ominously darker with spots of blue rapidly disappearing. I took a few pictures of turbines but soon gave up and headed back towards town (I actually managed to get some compelling pictures on the way back). By the time I got back, the clouds were uniformly gray, and the rain was coming down again.
I went back to the cottage. After lounging for a bit, I thought I’d head back to the coffee shop to get online and plan the next few days of the trip. As I was on my way out, I ran into Bobby (the husband of Cynthia, the host), who was apparently in the process of inviting over two of his energy industry buddies. This I couldn’t miss. Hours of dialogue, debate and laughs ensued. Jerry, a former and current landman (one who negotiates land leases between oil companies and landowners) with a decades long public education career in between, told tales of having a gun pointed at his head when a drilling crew showed up a day early to a ranch. Curtis, a drilling site manager, dove into the details of the oil and gas business (more on this conversation to come at You and Your Energy).
After three hours of invaluable insight, we called it a night. I thanked Cynthia and Bobby for their incredible hospitality (if you’re ever in Abilene, check out The Refuge at Wit’s End) and went back into the cottage, my head swimming. I finally fell asleep a few hours later.