"The real voyage of Discovery lies not in seeking new lands, but in seeing with new eyes"
Marcel Proust

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

From Wind Farms to the Windy City

Posted by Ted:
If there was one constant on our trip through Illinois it was wind.  As the prairie zephyr buffeted our vehicle mile after mile, I was struck by how this invisible force has influenced people both past and present. Pioneers sailed across the sea of grass on prairie schooners – the wind filling the sails attached to their wagons. This same force turned windmills that pumped life giving water from the ground for people and livestock. Without these windmills, settlers would never have been able to settle away from lakes and rivers.  The same breezes that cooled, carried, and quenched prairie dwellers, also brought destruction in the form of tornados and wind-swept wildfires. Today wind is still both friend and foe.  Sometimes we want it to blow and other times we go to great effort and expense to stop it from blowing.  The most obvious interaction with wind along I-55 is the wind farms that harvest energy from the atmosphere and convert it to electrical energy.   These modern day windmills come with controversy LuAnn is working on that story for the book.  I recently did a story on how farmers block the wind with rows of trees called shelterbelts or windbreaks. These are planted to hold soil in place and to keep homes and farmsteads warmer in winter and cooler in summer, as well as to reduce the wear and tear of the wind on farm buildings.  Much of life in this part of Illinois is still devoted to capturing or blocking something many of us take for granted - the wind.

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