Anyone with 20/20 vision who’s driven into the Palm Springs Valley from Highway 10 knows that the sight of towering white windmills is a local beacon. There are some 2000 of these tall turbines throughout the desert, and their near-constant toiling supplies energy to more than a million people in some 250,000 local homes. But for all their ubiquity, the windmills have remained a mystery to most of us. Until now.
Just over a month ago, Palm Springs Windmill Tours began offering…windmill tours! As the only windmill farm tour operator officially endorsed by the Desert Wind Energy Association, PSWT is the only party whose staff can take you up close and personal to these gigantic blade runners. I’m talking inside the fence onto private property, up close and personal.
Each tour begins in PSWT’s main building, where guides walk visitors through an exhibition of 25 historical photographs as they explain just how wind energy works. Then, from the comfort of PSWT’s brand new, customized bus, up to 28 people are driven through parts of the largest windmill farm in California. The tour ($35 adults, $30 seniors, $20 active military, $12.50 children under 12) lasts approximately 90 minutes, and is given three times daily: at 9:00 a.m., 11:30 a.m., and 2:00 p.m. Participants learn all kinds of fun facts. I didn’t know that the tallest turbine is the height of a 45-story building, or that both a windmill’s blades and its main chassis change direction automatically to maximize power production—but I do now! Part of the tour also brings folks out of the bus so they can stand directly under the windmills and bask in their blades’ rotating shadow. How cool is that? Pretty cool. But not as cool as actually touching a windmill and venturing inside its base. That feature of the attraction is coming soon.
Whenever I travel back to my home in Rancho Mirage from Los Angeles, I welcome the uplifting sight of these trademark landmarks because it means I’m home. And now, thanks to Palm Springs Windmill Tours, I feel like I know these “friends,” who have been watching over us for more than 35 years, just a bit better.