Monday, September 5, 2011

The Landscape of My Homeland

Salutations, folks. We are still recovering from last week's trip and this weekend was just as busy with my Mother visiting.

But, I'm keeping my promise of a weekly blog, not only for my double digit (on good days) number of fans, but also for myself. I also promised to write about my favorite addition to the landscape of Central Illinois, or what my husband likes to call my "homeland." So, without further ado: wind farms!

I know it may sound silly, but I love seeing wind farms! First off, the sleek look of the wind turbines gives the Land of Lincoln a classic, yet modern look. And I'm always impressed to see the semi trucks along interstates 55, 57 and 74 carrying the long wind blades.

New Scenic View
But let's get to what really matters - harnessing wind as an alternative energy. Let's consider the Rail Splitter wind farm.  All together, the Horizon Wind Energy's 67 GE sle 1.5 MW turbines can generate a capacity of 100.5 megawatts. Now I'm not a mathematician, but that's equal to about 58 tons of coal for just one hour!

There's a monetary benefit to wind farms, as well. After the initial investment, depending on how big/nice/efficient of a turbine you get, your energy bill will be dramatically cut. Through the power of the interwebs, it seems that you will pay (roughly) 2 dollars per watt for a turbine on the cheaper end. So, a 1kw small wind turbine that will power your bare necessities (radio, fridge & cell phone charger) cost about $2,000. And if I'm using my super-non-math skills, it will roughly take 2.5 years for the turbine to pay for itself.  And if you generate more power than you use, the energy company pays you! Unbelievable I know, but true! There is also our favorite government phrase: tax incentives. In fact, the wind turbine companies pay the farmers thousands of dollars per year to use their land.  That money could help farmers that are trying to go back to their grassroots of smaller, organic farming.

Those benefits multiply for small, rural communities. Large wind farms often consist of many turbines spread over a large number of properties, so several farmers benefit from one large-scale wind farm. Back in 2010, thanks to the Rail Splitter wind farm, "new tax revenue pouring in has helped fund three area school districts and made it possible for Boynton Township to construct a new municipal building." (Central Illinois News Center) So, it's an energy source that not only benefits you, but your locale. Wind farms also generate construction & maintenance jobs, which is a green boost for a rough economic time.

To present both sides, I will list some problems people have reported. In that same Central Illinois News story, some people claimed to have ill health effects due to the turbines including headaches, vertigo & ringing in the ear. It also cites military reports that wind farms can interfere with flight patterns & radars. There is also a concern for life line helicopters. And, while wind farms can interfere with spraying crops, I would rather see organic farming without pesticides anyway. Lastly, there are also reports that some bats & birds have been killed when flying near wind turbine blades. But according to National Geographic, it's nothing compared to the number killed by "cars, power lines, and high-rise buildings."

So that's my 2 cents worth on wind farms. It is one of the few things I miss when I leave Central Illinois. I start getting depressed when I drive further south in Illinois and see the small oil dereks instead. If you'd like to read more and develop your own opinion about wind farms, check out the American Wind Energy Association's web site. They are always updating reports and issues when it comes to the power of wind.

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