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Scary Iowa

I live in Duluth and don't travel much. But let me tell you, Duluthians, about the first state you hit if you keep traveling south. I spent part of the past weekend driving across Iowa. I have not been to Iowa since I was a kid, and something seems to have changed.


A short distance over the state line, we saw windmills in the distance. They were far away but could be seen clearly. You could tell they were enormous. Scary big.

I kept saying things like, "They're freaking me out!" and "Those are so scary!" Of course, I said, too, "Those make a lot more sense than digging up coal to burn it," but mostly, I was freaked out.
My kids asked, "Why do you think they're scary, Mom?"

And I'd say, "Because they're so big. It looks like an army of robots landed. Or space aliens, like in 'War of the Worlds.'" (This meant nothing to them, of course, not having seen that movie.) "And what if a tornado came by? Would those blades go sailing through the air? Would they spin super fast? Could the tornado pass right through them? Are they strong enough to withstand it?"

The windmills raised many questions, and unfortunately for everyone involved, there were no answers to be found within the minivan.


As we continued south and turned onto I-80, the cross-country semi traffic started. Again, I was scared by the size of things.

There were semis carrying windmill parts, huge sewer pipes and houses cut in half. There were semis carrying semis. There were oversize-load escort cars, like, a mile away from their load. What's the deal with that?

Then there was this big beam. "Shouldn't they transport that on its side?" I asked, always the critic. I passed the truck, and another carrying a beam just like it. It was scary.

We were sitting at a rest stop later when I saw the beam semis pass by. I ended up passing them twice.


At the rest stop, I began to wonder whether Iowa makes everything bigger. Never in my life have I been able to see over the wall in a bathroom stall, but in Iowa, my whole head can peer over. My daughter took a picture, in which I am standing flat on my feet. I have titled it "Hello There."


There's a stretch of California along the Pacific Coast Highway (US.1) that has windfarms that go literally for miles and miles. They've also got an eggbeater design wind turbine that's pretty cool and also several stories tall. If we want our species to survive, we've got to build a lot more of these things!

When I was driving to Montana this summer I was right around the curvy cliffy area of T.Roosevelt National Park & Painted Canyon when I, too, passed windmill semis for the first time. The first ones I passed were the base tubes. I am still astounded by just how big they were. As I passed them on the curvy road I contantly felt like they were going to roll off and crush me. We passed the blades too...yikes. You really don't know how big those windmills are until your in a little car 10 feet away.

They're the furture baby!

Oh Beverly, I am so happy to hear that you too are wary of big things. They completely freak me out too. My reactions were similar upon seeing the windmills exactly like those while driving thru Wisconsin to my hubby's hometown near Green Bay. They are no less than overwhelming, other-worldly monsters. I get that they are green and good for us, but it will take some getting used to is all.

I could watch those things for hours. It was always fun seeing the ships loaded up with them too.

Actually many of those windmill parts are shipped right through Duluth through the Port Terminal. Walk out on the fishing pier at Rice's Point and look back towards the harbor and you'll see stuff there.

I make that trek on the way to Nebraska a couple times a year. I agree, multiple windmills off in the distance on the flattest place in the world have a very War of the Worlds feel.
Those have probably been there 10 years or so, there are a couple small ones along I-80 just west of Des Moines that have been there at least 20. I always wondered who put those first ones up, and if they just power the building next to it, or provide power to a bigger area. Along that same stretch of I-80 they were assembling 5 or 6 new windmills right by the road in August, so you could see how they get put together. That had a whole different War of the Worlds feel - like it had crashed to the ground.

Those semis with car racks and a couple cars hanging off the back end by only a chain are what scare me.

I've seen those windmills, too. I think they are kind of neat. My husband knew a guy who used to wire them for a living. He was inside one of the blades when someone turned it on and it started to move. He got out safe, but quit immediately after that. A fear of heights was the least of his worries!

I'm surprised people don't think that windmills can have a weather effect (butterfly in Beijing causes tornado in Kansas, etc.) I suppose it depends on where you "plant" them. I keep thinking of how minute actions humans take (like putting out fires in a forest) and how it ends up kicking us in the buttocks.

I'm personally scared of large underwater things.

I too have seen the wind farm that Tim K refers to. It was mesmerizing and beautiful all at the same time. To your point the first time I caught a glimpse of it as we were driving it startled me. Had we had more time I would have loved to stop and watch all those turbines turning so quietly and gracefully.

Just another thought....I wonder if there is a bird kill issue with wind farms like there is with radio towers or does the movement deter a negative effect.

Stop being scared.... please.

If anything be skeptical but don't be scared.

Fear makes us to stupid stuff like reelect Bush. Fear paralyzes, skepticism is supposed to lead to questions which should lead to answers.

Oh, wait, check this out:


Wind power is not perfect.

Sci-fi story that may or may not actually be true...

Man takes power from sun (via ocean current, wind movement, direct solar to electricity) in energy farms. Man eventually realizes that all this consumption has after effects; weather changes would be a big one.

I hope, one day, people realize that the power of the sun being renewable is somewhat of an illusion.

Is it always there, of course. But, to be so arrogant to think we can harness it better than the earth can is a little pompous.

You put down a solar collector, you lose greenery area that requires the sun. Or, in a desert, what do you think the sand does by itself (natural solar collector that affects weather systems). What do you think would happen if we decided to tap into the heat sink that is Lake Superior? Yes, I call it a heat sink, because it's so large. Lake Superior holds its heat energy for a long time after summer months.

If you greedily acquire energy, you mess up your room.

Rant over. Sorry. Had to let that out.

I'm not Malthusian. I just think that we have a tendency to screw things up, myself included.

I too once had questions about how much wind turbines would affect the amount of energy in the atmosphere... until I saw a huge wind farm in action and realized just how miniscule even the largest complexes with the largest wind turbines are compared to how much wind there is out there on the prairie. I know there's lots of stuff about which the statement "there's so much it can't possibly disappear" was later proven false, but really, there is a lot, lot, LOT of solar energy bangin' around up there. With global warming, even more so. Big blades don't put even a tiny dent in the overall wind speed.

Now the killing of birds is a bigger, very real concern. Ground-nesting prairie birds fair poorly under towers, even ones logically too high up for their raptor predators to perch on (their survival and breeding instincts aren't that finely distinguishing). Big blades, even slow moving ones, do apparently chop up migrating songbirds and raptors. The two critical questions are, one, can the species they impact absorb the impact with minimal population loss, and two, does the overall environmental benefit of using a clean alternative to fossil fuels outweigh the negative impacts on some species? I'm not an expert, but at least on the second question, I think wind farms come out positive.

I'd be interested to see some of the corkscrew-design turbines in action, and I wonder if they can be screened in to prevent birds from getting caught in them.

I agree with a large part of what you say, rediguana, but these aren't trees we're planting, they are things that pull power from the air; energy that should be rushing over land. What may seem minuscule, may in fact be severely tragic.

Like I said, I'm not a doomsday type person, but being a former engineer, I have to go with the fact that it's plausible to easily affect large weather systems with windmill farms.

The numbers are small, of course, but I think of the 1912 picture of Boulder, CO, and how it is today, and why they are constantly on flood and fire alert because of buoying plant growth and creek-bed nurture. Their numbers were small, too.

The immediate bad effect, in other words, only seems paltry. A wolf in sheep's clothing.

Alright, that is a bit extreme, but wind farms are only a temporary answer IMHO.

My little brother used to live in Woodstock, MN, which is close to Pipestone, MN. In this southwest corner of the state are many of these windmills out in the open farmland (where I noticed many Bush election signs a few years ago). I learned there that just one of these monstrosities costs one million dollars to build. I enjoy driving by the semis on the freeway that are carrying these huge windmill parts from Lakehead construction to Virginia, MN. They are huge and intricate and the mastermind behind the project is a woman. Amazing.

If you are really that worried about the "possible" negative effects on climate caused by wind turbines, I suggest you immediately turn off every electrical device in your home. The amount of coal burned every day to support your computer, TV, refrigerator, etc. is doing waaaaaaaaaaaay more damage than the current population of wind turbines times ten. Yes they (wind turbines) are big, but our fossil fuel problem is exponentially bigger. Quit driving your car while you are at it- you are personally responsible for a minimum of 2 tons of carbon released into the atmosphere if you drive 10 to 15 thousand miles per year. Just sayin'

I drive past that Iowa wind farm a couple times a year. It has been amazing to see how quickly it grows. If you want a really close look, take the Joice exit and head west ~3 miles. Take a right turn, head north a bit, and pull into the gravel lot on your right. I think there are signs along the way.

Looking up from the base of one of those giants, while it is spinning, is pretty cool. I must also report a peculiar sense of unease...

Here are some pix of the turbines up in Virginia:



I think they are neat- and anything that can decentralize our power generation is a good thing. It sucks when whole states are blacked out because of damage in a critical part of the grid. It's stuff like this can help keep the lights on when things go to hell- sort of a power cushion.

And the point about coal being fucking dirty is a good one- it's been shown that schoolchildren downwind from coal plants have elevated levels of mercury in their systems. Mercury, of course, has been implicated as a cause of mental retardation.

I guess if you are a Republican, that little point would be more of a feature than a flaw, but for the rest of us? Yeah, kind of a bad thing to pass to the next generation...

I love the all the turbines on highway 1.

And. It's not like me to stick up for a liberal or a conservative, Andy, but that was a terrible thing to say. What a simpleminded douchebag you must be.

I just now read the last part of your post. You think maybe it's some Iowan Napolean complex? I don't know that many Iowans, but maybe they just breed them short like we do in Minnesota. Maybe they're just compensating for something.

Does anyone know anything about the wind turbines on top of City Hall? Like, whose project was it to put them there?

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