Towers of Illinois

You’re driving north in Illinois. The sun set hours ago, a hundred miles back. It’s dark out. Black. Your headlights hardly cut into the inky night, barely enough to see the road in front of you. To your right, some unknown distance ahead, you see a flash of red dots, like an oilrig on the horizon, and then they’re gone. As if the rolling hills and the highway shrubs and prairie grass obscure your vision every hundred feet or so, they appear and disappear just on your periphery. But then it becomes clear, it’s not the terrain that makes them blink in and out of existence, but the lights themselves are pulsing in unison. Dozens of faceless towers announce their location for all to see, all at once, then disappear. Like the synchronous fireflies of Southeast Asia, they appear somehow sentient. As you approach closer, the pulsing red lights illuminate the towers, as blades turn slowly, silently, in the wind. Three blades, lit for a moment and towering over the landscape for miles, like the devastating, tripod creatures from Mars sent to conquer in War of the Worlds. Though unmoving, they seem, here at night, working in unison, like they could decide to uproot themselves and lumber over farmyards toward the nearest town…

Wind turbines are one of several renewable energy resources being developed as we grapple with the impacts of burning fossil fuels and climate change. The EPA, under President Obama, has set the goal of reducing carbon emissions by 30% by 2050. Illinois currently receives 4.7% of its power from wind and ranks 4th for total megawatts installed in the States. Many wind farms are on actual farms in the rural areas that you can see from the highway. Missouri generates only 1.3% of its energy from wind, with an installed capacity just an eighth that of Illinois. Ameren, my provider, plans to add 400 megawatts over time, while KCP&L currently provides about 540 megawatts in Kansas and Missouri, and Kansas ranks 3rd in the country with 19.4% of its energy coming from wind.

These plains states have a great potential for developing wind energy as the wind famously tears through the open prairies and farmlands. Although wind energy cannot provide the constant, base supply of electricity needed at this time, it is a powerful component of a balanced energy portfolio that can help meet our national goals of curbing carbon emissions.


…You’re driving south in Illinois. The sun is up, but hidden behind a sheet of clouds that the wind pushes east. You come close, seemingly within inches, of dozens of towers, their blades turning lazily to meet the breeze. Soundless. Less eerie in the sunlight, they are still imposing. Standing evenly apart, quietly waiting for night to fall to organize. Biding their time until they can announce themselves, saying ‘Here I am!’. So that, if they ever decide to pull out of their foundations and wander, at least we’ll know where they are.

(Edit: Okay it turns out I totally unconsciously stole the idea of War of the Worlds etc. http://xkcd.com/556/)