As Americans struggle with today's economic hardships, some rural
communities are looking to wind power as a way forward. In the central
state of Oklahoma, known for its frequent tornadoes, wind is now seen
as a positive force by scientists, businesses and universities.
same wind that sometimes wreaks havoc is now spinning 100-meter-tall
turbines that dot highways and rural landscapes, providing wind energy
to city power plants.
Each turbine costs about $2 million to
build and install. Developers are also paying landowners $4,000 to
$6,000 per year for leases to put a turbine on their land.
return, landowners are being asked to collect data from each turbine to
perfect the technology, as scientist Angie Albers explains.
measure the wind's rotation that then goes down to a data logger, which
is similar to this, and then this records the data," she says. "Then we
get data chips in the mail from the landowners. They pull out the chips
and then send them to us and we process the data."
A booming business
who is project coordinator for the government-funded Oklahoma Wind
Power Initiative, sees wind as a new economic boom which can help save
rural communities where turbines are located.
"I do foresee it
as a boom that is happening now and will for many years to come. I
think that it can have the chance to help struggling communities keep
their hospitals and their schools and their community going and
possibly even bring people back into their communities."
Oklahoma-based Bergey Windpower company has been making turbines for
residential use since the administration of President Jimmy Carter in
the late 1970s.
Now President Barack Obama is extending new
subsidies and tax breaks to make wind power more affordable, and
business is booming again. Sales representative Scott Merrick feels he
is in the right industry at the right time.
"I am attracted to
small wind turbines because it is fun," Merrick says. "There is almost
a bit of a cowboy-esque type feel to going out and climbing up a
120-foot [about 36 meters], tower and there is an independence, almost
a fronteerism, but on a green fronteerism."
University leads the way
University of Oklahoma is paying a premium to a state electricity
provider to ensure that its campus power plant will be 100-percent
wind-powered by 2013.
Plant director Bill Henwood says it is nice for a change to work on the good side of wind's potential.
who lives in Tornado Alley - Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Missouri - you
experience tornadoes on one level or another, and in 2003 we had the
opportunity to experience up close and personal, as we lost my house.
Thankfully, my wife and son were next-door in a shelter.
have experienced the negative aspects of wind on the Central Plains as
well as the positive as we are experiencing with the wind power
University associate vice president Byron Burr Millsap says the university can become a model for America's greener future.
think we are pretty much well agreed that we need to be more and more
intense and focused on finding renewable sources of energy and less
dependent on foreign oil and outside sources of energy. I think we are
very focused on that, and I think we are very focused on making the air
cleaner for us to breathe and preserving resources so that our children
and your children enjoy the same resources that we do today."
detractors who say wind turbines are not economical and consistent
enough for large scale use, there are plenty of Oklahomans ready to see
more of these turbines dotting their highways and flat landscapes and
eager to lead the trend toward an ever-larger percentage of U.S.
electricity coming from the power of the wind.
View more of Nico Colombant's multimedia reports on his blog, "In Their Own Words."