Before you drive out to Ellensburg to visit one of the only windfarm visitor centers in the United States, realize that the Wild Horse Wind and Solar Visitor Center is only open from April 1st-November 15th. If you are visiting during this time, there are usually some pretty awesome free tours and other events going on in the area and you really need to check this place out! During the other months there is a number on the Puget Sound Energy website to call if you really want to try and figure out a tour but weather and snow can be a big issue.
We went recently on a whim. I was looking up things to do in Ellensburg because it’s just east of our cabin and I was looking for a side-trip and read that you could actually go inside a wind turbine at this windfarm owned by Puget Sound Energy. This sounded like something my kids would love. My family is very into renewable energy and we drive an electric car so we are always wanting to learn more about innovative energy solutions. We’ve also heard a lot about energy in the news lately and we really want to be informed.
If you’re into driving electric, Ellensburg has a Tesla car charger. It is one of the busier car chargers we’ve been to and it’s right near a hotel with a pool that I’m tempted to see if we can go swimming in one day while we charge. Wouldn’t that be an awesome use of charging time? We usually play football when we charge but this time, the whole family snoozed because we got up super early to make the 10am tour.
If we had brought our plug we could have charged at the Wild Horse Wind and Solar Facility. They have a few plugs available, you just have to ask where and how to park electric. There are also priority parking spots for hybrid and low-emission vehicles. It was really cool to see the wind turbines show up on the dashboard too!
This visitor center is a couple miles up a hill in an area that reminds me of Iceland. It is stunning and as you drive by giant wind turbines it is amazing to see how big they really are up close. In the visitor’s center there are lots of interactive activities that teach about how electricity here is generated and it was busy and full of hunters because there is a huge heard of elk in the area and the hunters help keep the numbers in check. I was surprised with all the people in the center that we were the only ones who were there for the tour. On the tour you get to go inside one of the big working wind turbines. I won’t post pictures of the inside of the turbine because you really just need to experience that in real life-it’s pretty amazing and I can’t believe this tour is free.
Before I went on the tour I did not realize how much of Puget Sound Energy’s electricity is produced by wind. It is actually about 8% and considering there have only 3 wind farms in the state, that is a lot of energy. We were curious about the environmental impact and it sounds like there aren’t a lot of drawbacks to using this type of energy. I loved how even solar panels were used on site to offset the power used by the wind turbines.
Apparently one of the biggest drawbacks to wind farms is that people think they look ugly. As we wandered through the towers learning about the plant conservation in the area, and the clean way energy was being produced, I couldn’t have imagined a more beautiful sight.
If you ever come through this area, it’s a fantastic stop. I’m already planning on coming back in the spring.
(PPS. If you know of any other visitor centers like this, please let me know, I love visiting and learning about how things are made. And if you drive electric and have some favorite charging stops I’d love to hear them too!)