TOOELE — A lone white windmill spun freely against a background of azure sky Wednesday afternoon. It could be seen from miles away, as if prompting modern day Don Quixotes to prepare for battle.
The western desert picture is not part of a work of fiction, though. It's Tooele County's first large-scale, wind-powered energy source.
The concept was developed in 2005 by Jay Weyland, energy manager for the Tooele Army Depot.
It took three rounds of bidding, but the $3.8 million project was finally funded by the federal government and contracted to PNE, a family-owned contractor out of Washington.
Once the blades arrived in Utah, they were put up in just one weekend.
"I justified it in my mind before I took it to anybody else," Weyland said after the ribbons were finally cut and the machine fired up. "It's huge. It's one of the most unique projects I've ever done. It will be either a great project or an albatross."
Though the contractor is based in the U.S., the machine parts came from China through Tang Energy.
"This was the best turbine," Weyland said, as local manufacturers make only small turbines. "It had the greatest power output and the quickest delivery time."
The turbine is not as large as those used in Spanish Fork Canyon but has comparable power output for its location, which gets steady winds of about 14 mph. Winds of 12 mph are required to keep it functional.
The great white machine stands 262 feet tall, and each blade is 126 feet long. The turbine will produce 1.5 megawatts of electricity, which translates to about $200,000 in annual savings.
The depot is preparing paperwork for additional wind turbines but is carefully keeping data for the first. If savings are shown, more turbines will be on their way, Weyland said.