Gone with the Wind might be an all-time great movie. But frankly, my dear, it just wouldn't cut it on the marquee at the Harvest Moon Twin Drive-In movie theater. Outdoor movies have always been a popular activity here in Gibson City, but now they are looking towards a greener future.
Prevailing currents are headed the opposite direction at The Pantagraph area's lone outdoor cinema. When its outdoor film season opened two weekends ago, the Harvest Moon blew in with the wind literally as the world's first and only turbine-powered movie theater.
Indoor or out, said Onarga-based owner Mike Harroun, who has operated the twin-screen drive-in since 1989. The only similar venue, he said, is the Color House Theatre, a live children's stage in Merton Abby Mills, England.
Otherwise, Harroun insists he's the first to fire up projectors, marquee lights and popcorn poppers at an outdoor cinema with Earth's greenest energy resource.
Blades spinning, the two turbines in front of the Harvest Moon are like colossal alien creatures that might have escaped from one of the two screens' recent attractions, Monsters vs. Aliens. One rises to 30 feet, the other towers at 50 feet.
Together, said Harroun, the pair can suck in gusts that whip through the area at a daily average of 12 to 15 mph. These turbines provide the needed energy source to keep the outdoor movies alight.
That's the optimum average for keeping the turbines churning out the kilowatts, added son William who, along with brother Ben, assist dad in the theater's running.
Kilowatt hours generated go straight into the local power company grid, like interest-earning money in the bank, said Mike.
Whatever is generated when the theater is dark six months of the year ( the best months for wind, he said) earns credit for future use.
In the first year or so, Ben estimated, the turbines should cut theater operation costs by 30 percent to half. Eventually, they will have banked enough kilowatt hours to power the theater on their own.
And if, by some unlikely quirk of Mother Nature, the wind dies down to 0 mph, patrons need not fear that, say, Monsters vs. Aliens will end in a premature draw. We're still always on the power company's grid, said Mike.
In addition, noted Ben, the towers are out of sightlines, for the motion-sickness-impaired. And they make no noise.
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, said Mike. My thought is it's the next big thing coming. Namely, homes and small business powered by the wind turbines.
To that end, he and his sons have gotten into the turbine-selling business, too, as the Onarga-based Angel Wind Energy Inc.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned at the theater in early May.
Harvest Moon Twin Drive-In
1123 S, Sangamon Ave, (Ill. 47 south), Gibson City
Weekends at dusk (around 7:40 p.m.; gates open an hour earlier)
$6; ages 5 and under, free
www.harvestmoondrive-in.com or (877) 546-6843
Source: "New wind turbines powering up area's drive-in theater" By Dan Craft -The Pantagraph. Read full article at: http://www.pantagraph.com/articles/2009/04/05/news/doc49d93b4f59c81362651241.txt