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Illinois Drive-In Becomes World's First Wind-Powered Movie Theater

drive in and small wind turbinesDrive-ins are not as ubiquitous on the American landscape as they once were. Whether sitting outside in lawn chairs, or inside with the windows rolled down, at the drive-in you get to experience movies on a big screen without being crammed into a multiplex theater with a sticky floor.

I can say without equivocation that drive-ins are my favorite way to go see a movie — though, perhaps, not always the greenest. That is, unless you happen by the Harvest Moon Holiday Twin Drive-In in Gibson City, Illinois, where the owners just installed two small wind turbines on the premises that they hope will ultimately produce 100% of the theater’s electricity.

The Harvest Moon’s owner, Mike Harroun expects the small wind turbines to initially cut his costs by 30 percent, but that is only in the first year. Eventually, Harroun hopes the turbines will provide all of the drive-in’s power.

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Even though the strongest winds hit Gibson City in the winter, when the Harvest Moon is closed, Harroun is able to take advantage of his utility’s net-metering program by banking the energy he produces in the winter to count against the energy he consumes in the summer. With a consistent 12-15 mph winter breeze, Harroun’s goal of being 100% wind-powered is definitely achievable.

The turbines, a Skystream 3.7 horizontal-axis wind turbine (pictured right) and a Mariah Power Windspire vertical-axis turbine (left) both begin generating power at lower wind-speeds, making them ideal for many applications. Both turbines were also on display on the National Mall and feeding to the Washington D.C. grid during President Obama’s inauguration in January.

>>See also: Top Five Micro-Wind Turbines

The Harrouns hope not only to slash the theater’s rising costs, but also pass savings along via stabilized ticket and concessions prices. “I don’t know why no one else has thought of this before,” Harroun told the Chicago Tribune.

The Harvest Moon in Gibson City is about 30 miles north of Champaign and is the only drive-in in east-central Illinois.

Images: AICAD via flickr (top); Harvest Moon Twin (turbines)

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is the founder of ecopolitology and the executive editor at LiveOAK Media, a media network about the politics of energy and the environment, green business, cleantech, and green living. When not reading, writing, thinking or talking about environmental politics with anyone who will listen, Tim spends his time skiing in Colorado's high country, hiking with his dog, and getting dirty in his vegetable garden.

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