Saturday, May 17, 2003

This is the text of the speech I gave this past Sunday at the benefit for Earthfest:

Hello, and thank you for being here today.

When I began this endeavor just three weeks ago, I had some idea of what I wanted to bring to the table and how to present it, but not a lot. I've decided in the time I have at the moment to go over the general potential that we have rather than specifics.

Wind energy has huge potential in the United States. It's estimated that the USA has the greatest on-shore potential of any country, to the best of my knowledge. There are those that call the USA The Saudi Arabia of Wind. There is estimated by the DOE to be enough potential to provide more electricity with wind power, if it were fully developed from on-shore wind projects, than the US currently uses in it's entirety. And that is just on-shore potential.

Along the coastlines of the US, the potential is vast. Wind is very strong within fifty miles or so of the land-ocean boundaries because of the combination of extreme flatness of the ocean and the near constant temperature differential between the land and the sea.

It's pretty clear and obvious to most folks that wind energy is pollution free. What's not widely known, is that current utility scale technology is capable of producing power at costs directly competitive with other "dirty" forms of generation technology. The great issues facing wind today are mostly political, conceptual, and transmission system access. The greatest potential exists out in the far Midwestern plains such as the Dakotas, Montana, and Western Minnesota. These areas are generally far from large cities, so consequentially transmission capacity lines between these areas and places like Chicago, Detroit, etc, are still needing to be constructed. It is happening folks, albeit slowly.

Now, one thing that many people do not realize is that states like Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan are sitting on a gold mine of wind energy potential. Or, more properly, next to the mine. The Great Lakes are probably the area in the USA with the third largest inland wind energy potential. Think of just the nickname for Chicago. "The Windy City". Milwaukee is even windier, I can tell you. Why? Because they sit on the edge of a great flat area where there is both a land-water temperature differential, and a large flat expanse of water that is comparably shallow. Oilrigs certainly operate in deeper waters. And you won't have to construct transmission lines all the way from the plains of Montana to put it to use.

The Great Lakes area has an opportunity to get the jump on wind energy's future, if that fact is recognized and exploited. Wind energy means jobs for construction and maintenance workers, thousands of them. Wind energy means leasing rights and extra money for family farmers struggling to make it on agriculture alone. In most cases farmers can grow crops right up to the base of a windmill. The land footprint has a small impact on total farm acreage. Wind energy also means freedom from fluctuating fuel prices. Wind is free. The cost of a barrel of polluting oil can be raised or lowered drastically based on fears or political whims. The only costs for wind power are engineering, generating equipment, transmission lines, and maintenance. All of these costs apply to other forms of generation, plus fuel costs.

Even not considering the Great Lakes at all, the land areas of Wisconsin and Illinois are considered 18th and 16th in wind energy potential respectively.

We need our political leaders taking strong action to be sure wind energy has fair and effective access to transmission networks. We need a comprehensive policy of Great Lakes wind energy development and resource sharing. We need strong commitment now from local colleges and universities to training wind energy professionals and maintenance workers. We need aggressive pursuit of wind energy equipment manufacturers locating here in the Great Lakes area. And we need aggressive pursuit of wind energy projects and venture capital.

The potential gains are enormous. We?ve all seen the flow of good manufacturing jobs out of the area. Well, they can't tell the wind to blow in another country so it's more "convenient" or cheaper to produce. The wind is perfectly happy to whip up opportunities for us right around here.

Please, visit the American Wind Energy Association's website at for facts, education, and networking information. They are the leading trade organization for wind energy in the Untied States.

And please, write your political leaders and continuing education administrators at every level, especially local, asking them to help secure our economic future AND clean up the environment at the same time.

Thank you.

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