A Trip in the Wind

Time for a road trip, and, no, I don’t mean Thelma and Louise-style. As you drive across parts of the US featuring vast open land, you may see a windmill or two. Do you wonder why it stands lonely in the middle of nowhere?  Water-pumping windmills, or wind pumps as they may be called, were once used throughout the US to produce electricity. Starting in the mid-1800s, the first windmill came about, and, at its peak, the US had more than one million of them. Most are gone now, a thing of the past  that began to disappear around the 1930s when power lines were extended to rural areas. The remaining ones are on farms and ranches to supply water to livestock.

Are we going full circle? Maybe. Will history repeat itself? Wind energy was expanded due to oil shortages and environmental concerns; however, natural gas (NG), which is not only clean, supplies more than 38%* of our energy source in the US, but NG can deliver heat to a larger population.

Currently, Germany is dismantling an entire wind farm to expand a lignite (coal) mine to supply electricity for heat. This is set to be completed by the end of 2023. Yes, subsidies disappeared and the costs of operating the farm were proving uneconomical, so a government-made solution had to be implemented. Although the government decided to dismantle the farm, there are still plans to stop using fossil fuels by 2030 in the region. I guess the German citizens will have to resort to wood burning fireplaces and extra blankets. If the wind farm didn’t work in 2022, what makes them think it will work in 2030? I guess the answer depends on which way the wind blows.

Speaking of wind, if there is no wind, then the windmills will sit idle. This means NO electricity, not just partial electricity. Maybe 2030 will produce more wind; however, I’m not able to look into my crystal ball and say for sure. If I were a German citizen, I would advise my government to think long and hard about doing away with fossil fuels. Anyone thinking of litigation while the German citizens freeze to death in their harsh winters?

While on the road, I discovered there is a windmill museum. It’s called the Mid-American Windmill Museum and it’s located in Kendallville, Indiana. This is a museum for history buffs. There, you can check out more than 50 operating water-pumping windmills. They’ve been restored for public consumption at a dedicated museum, and that’s just where they belong, in a museum, not dotting the landscape in an attempt to generate my much-needed electricity.

  • Information supplied by the eia, U.S. Energy Information Administration, as of November 2022.

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