ambience: windmill far away
We’re in southwest Minnesota on Buffalo Ridge, a region carved out by glaciers, and a landscape that’s changed little since Native Americans roamed the area. But recently small armies of wind turbines have been dotting the hillside. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
“That’s probably fifty, seventy-five turbines we’re seeing right now. And I would say ninety-nine percent of em are running.”
Conrad Schardin’s family has farmed in Lake Benton Minnesota for generations. He says the land here is well suited to harvesting the power of the wind.
“We’re on what we call the Buffalo Ridge here – – and it’s not a very wide ridge. On the top of the ridge you’re talking less than a mile or two wide, but the elevation is around 2000 feet at Lake Benton – – and the elevation is why the wind is blowing so good here.”
Rick Halet is an engineer with Xcel Energy, one of several companies that found the Buffalo Ridge an attractive site for wind farming.
“We discovered the Buffalo Ridge by installing fifteen wind monitoring stations in our four state service territory. Buffalo Ridge monitoring station was by far the best one that we monitored. It was almost two miles an hour better, ah, than any other place that we monitored and that’s very significant because of the rapid increase of the power with the wind as the wind speed increases.”
Conrad Schardin has helped set up wind turbines and says that this new addition to the neighborhood doesn’t really spoil the landscape.
“They’re kind of modern looking and, ah, they’re kind of mesmerizing – watchin’. They’re kind of like watching a fire burn in a fireplace. There’s a little bit of a whine to ’em that you can sometimes hear. It depends on how fast the wind is blowing. The faster the wind, the more the whooshing sound you hear from the blades going around. Other than that you don’t hardly hear ’em. You get anywhere from a half a mile away, you won’t even hear ’em.”
Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science for 200 hundred years, with additional support provided by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.