Railsplitter Wind Farm DedicationJuly 21, 2009
Farming the Wind
Of all the forces of nature
the wind contains the largest amount
of motive power—
and all the power exerted
by all the men, and beasts,
and running water,
and steam, over and upon it,
shall not equal the one hundredth part
of what is exerted
by the blowing of the wind
over and upon the same space.
And yet it has not,
so far in the world’s history,
become proportionably valuable
as a motive power.
As yet the wind is an untamed
and unharnessed force;
and quite possibly one
of the greatest discoveries
hereafter to be made
will be the taming
of the wind.
Abraham Lincoln, 1958
This is a portion of a speech by Abraham Lincoln that he gave on April 6, 1858, as part of his first lecture on "Discoveries and Inventions" before the Young Men’s Association of Bloomington, Illinois. I don’t know who changed the layout into a poem, but it works. The poem has been adopted by Horizon Energy for their Railsplitter Wind Farm (Railsplitter was one of Lincoln’s nicknames). I like the fact that a corporation uses poetry as part of their supporting materials.
Today my husband and I attended the dedication of the Railsplitter Wind Farm. No, they didn’t flip the switch and start up the turbines (we were disappointed), but there is much good to be said about this event.
For one, it was a celebration of small town communities. The food was prepared by the Legion Hall of my community (and my, was it good). Fire and ambulance squads were present from two others. Horizon Energy – the company that put up the wind farm – was appropriately grateful to the property owners and the county officials who made it possible. This was no small feat either, for the wind farm was controversial at first, and I’m sure it still is among some – but it’s up now.
The luncheon and dedication took place on farmland in the midst of the turbines. Tables with flowers were set up under a large white tent. The luncheon was served as greenly as possible – the plates were paperboard, the utensils were biodegradable, and the plastic cups were made from corn and were compostable. Of course, I rather doubt any trash was composted, but at least the manufacturing of the plastic cups and utensils would have been less toxic than your basic plastic picnicware.
Back to the turbines. There are 67 spread across 11,000 acres, each 290 feet tall with 3 125-foot blades. The wind farm will generate 101 megawatts of electricity – – that is enough electricity to power 30,000 homes for a year. That’s a lot of homes. According to the census the average household was about 2.6 people in 2003, so this wind farm can power for a year the homes of a population of 78,000. That’s a small city! Or, another way to think of it is that the wind farm could provide in one year the electricity to power my town of 1800 (roughly 692.3 homes) for 43.333 years.
In addition to the power that is generated. The wind farm has also generated jobs. [A side note, the construction company mentioned that 190,000 man hours have gone into constructing the wind farm, without a single construction accident – way to go White Construction!] The wind farm will also generate tax revenue. The county board chair said our county will be earning $517,000 annually for the school districts involved. Most of that money will be going to one (not my) school district (lucky ducks!). But because 7 of the turbines are in my school district I estimate that our district will see about $54,000 of new revenue annually. I’m on the school board; these are funds that will be gladly received and put to good use.
Finally – on top of the general feeling of appreciation and good will, along with the pleasant (and appropriately breezy) weather, and in addition to the delicious food – we also got stuff. OK, I know I am not supposed to want stuff anymore, that stuff is not green – – but old habits die hard. I got each of my kids an “I love wind energy” lollipop. I picked up a wind turbine lapel pin and an “I love wind energy bumper sticker”. My husband and I each picked up a tin of mints and a pen. And we also got t-shirts – one I can share with my son if he thinks it’s too dorky to wear and one for my husband. No, they aren’t organic cotton – they are from Haiti and Mexico (I hope we aren’t talking sweatshops here and that it means the t-shirt purchase helped people in developing countries). At each seat there was a 200 piece jigsaw puzzle with a picture from the wind farm. And oh, I also got to keep the flowers from our table.
All in all, for a corporate-funded do, it was down-home, sincere, green(ish) and interesting. Made me proud of my part of the state and their willingness to see the value of wind power.