By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
Chris Navarro is awaiting the delivery of twelve wind turbine blades. These blades aren’t intended to turn in the air, generating energy – they’ve already done that.
These defunct behemoths, whose usefulness in the wind energy industry has passed, are being repurposed in an art display on the Platte River Trail near Casper.
“Wind Cathedral,” an art piece designed by Navarro, will stand 35’ high, forming a “tunnel” over a section of the Platte River Trail east of the Pumphouse. It will be visible from 1st Street on the way to the historic Oil Derrick sculpture and the Poplar Street intersection.
“Wind Cathedral” is one of several pieces Navarro has proposed to organizations throughout Wyoming to celebrate the state’s status as one of the nation’s top energy producers – and to keep the massive blades from piling up in landfills when they have outlived their usefulness.
Platte River Trails
The artist said he was approached by the executive director of the trail system when she learned about his desire to repurpose wind turbine blades that would otherwise be buried in a landfill.
“She wanted to build some kind of wind sculpture, you know, something for the Wyoming wind on the trails,” Navarro said. “She said this would be a good fit.”
Angela Emery, executive director for the Platte River Trails Trust, said she’s personally been interested in installing wind art along the trail system, which travels 11 miles along the North Platte River corridor in and near Casper.
“We’ve been very involved in art in other different ways over the past decade,” Emery told Cowboy State Daily. “And I’ve been mulling around in my mind ways to engage with the concept of wind for a program on the trails.”
She said after she found out that Navarro had gone to the Casper City Council to propose the installation of his large-form art piece “Windhenge,” Emery decided to reach out to the artist.
“I thought, well, you know, maybe we should just get together and see if we can’t make something happen sooner rather than later,” she said.
“There’s not a lot of red tape going on with the Platte River Trails Trust, because they own the land,” Navarro said. “And they had a board meeting and they decided to move forward on it.”
Navarro said the next steps are to raise money to begin construction, then get the blades shipped to Casper.
“I’m trying to get 12 blades from the energy company,” he said. “And then once I get those blades, get some engineering drawings, I want to talk to contractors and kind of line things up.”
Navarro said he hopes to have the structure completed around the first week of October.
“Once I have everything lined out, I believe it’s going to take three days to construct it,” he said. Navarro has already contacted a crane company in Casper that has experience working with wind turbine blades.
“We’ll have to close a lane traffic off on Yellowstone (Avenue) and we’re going to pick the blades up and install them one at a time,” he said. “I would have the site prepped already with the holes dug – my idea is to bury them five feet, 40-foot blades and then 35 feet of the blades will be sticking out of the ground.”
Navarro said the blades will be angled over the trail.
“You’ll be able to walk and bike through the sculpture,” he said, adding that plaques recognizing sponsors would be posted nearby.
Fundraising at “The Speed of Wind”
Emery said the organization has already started to raise money to install “Wind Cathedral.”
“We are trying to go at the speed of light – the speed of wind – and trying to raise all this money privately,” she said, explaining that she had explored applying for a grant through the Wyoming Arts Council.
“But then Chris and I said, you know, I think there could be enough companies and individuals who might want to help us just jumpstart this and do it as quickly as we can,” Emery said.
So the Platte River Trails Trust, a 501-C-3 nonprofit, is hoping to attract “blade sponsors” at $5,000 per blade, or two blades for $9,000.
“We are about to launch and engage in a fundraising effort to ‘sell’ the twelve wind blades,” Emery said, “and then if anyone else wants to give any other type of donation to help us get it done, we’re going to jump right in and hopefully get the sculpture up.”
“Windhenge” Still A Possibility
Navarro said he is still in talks with the Casper City Council to install another of his large form art pieces, titled “Windhenge” – but when working with government agencies as opposed to private organizations, the wheels tend to turn more slowly.
“Anytime I’ve noticed I’m working with large committees, like the city councils and things like that, it seems like when you work with government things are a lot slower,” he said.
But Navarro is hoping the successful installation of this first wind turbine blade art piece will open doors to other projects.
“The thing is just to build one, you know,” he said. “I think once the first one is built, it’ll open doors to have more of them built. People will see that it’s a cool idea. And then hopefully, you know, others will find ways to repurpose these blades too. So I just got to build the first one.”
Contact Angela Emery at firstname.lastname@example.org or 307-577-1206 to sponsor a blade.