Wind Power in the Great Plains

July 5th, 2007 by David
Highway - not many people west of the Missouri River...

We became very familiar with South Dakota’s wind energy potential. Every day the wind would howl at us from a different direction. We were a bit lucky as well – we ended up have slightly more tailwinds than headwinds.

Wind potential in the U.S.  South Dakota is near the top.

The map shown on the right shows the potential wind energy from different states around the region (I took this photo next to a wind farm in South Dakota). One of the problems with wind is that it is most windy in the Great Plains, where few people live. Also, it isn’t windy all the time (so you can’t create electricity all of the time). But, usually it is windy somewhere, so if we have a large electric grid, we can distribute the electricity. We also don’t currently have the distribution network to carry the electricity away from the Great Plains – why not build it? According to the map shown on the right, and comparing with U.S. energy statistics, the combined wind energy potential of Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota is roughly equal to the current U.S. yearly electricity generation from all sources (coal, natural gas, nuclear, etc.).

Yes, there are concerns with wind energy, and I am not sure we should cover all of the Great Plains in wind turbines. I encourage you to read this link to learn more (especially issues concerning bird and bat mortality). The bottom line is that the wind turbines are far better than the alternative of global warming.

The 30 second video below, though, sums up how I feel about wind power:

4 responses to “Wind Power in the Great Plains”

  1. Andy says:

    thank you for that great video! I happen to love windmills too. I think there is a certain poetry in watching them create energy from the wind. With respect to the birds that die because of the windmills, well, i think that’s rather silly. I mean, burning coal isn’t helping birds. And i forget how many millions of birds die every year crashing into buildings. Or die because of hunters, or because their habitats are destroyed. I love windmills and love seeing them spin!
    keep up the great posts!

  2. Dan L. says:

    Great video – i’ve enjoyed your updates and thanks again for your efforts!

  3. Greg D says:

    Windmills are certainly part of the solution. Windmills, like bicycles, are beautiful in their simplicity and efficiency. They’re two of mankind’s perfectly elegant inventions that energy engineers and designers should keep in mind in developing new energy production. A commuter-cyclist uses around just 1 percent of the energy required by a typical modern automobile. If we would all ride a little more and drive a little less – what a profound difference it would make, in many different ways (health care, air quality, congestion, dependence on foreign oil/national security, etc.)

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