Prescient Quote about Hometown Wind Energy from 1977!

By Paul Gipe

Flipping through a scrapbook my mom made for me, I came across an old clipping from my hometown newspaper in Alexandria, Indiana.

I was 27 at the time so the clipping is from 1977. I had yet to move to California and was just beginning my career in wind energy. The article was basically about my start in the “booming business” as they called it by salvaging junk windchargers from the Great Plains.

What struck my eye is the quote, “Indiana is a better location for the use of windpower than many eastern states, since most wind speeds are higher, the terrain flatter, and most of the trees cut down.”

Of course, since then wind energy has indeed boomed in the Midwest. There’s even a 200 MW wind project of GE turbines visible from my mom’s place. See Hometown Wind Farm A Wildcat.

I remember my thinking at the time. The wind was good enough, not great, but good enough. However, the politics were not right nor were there wind turbines that could do the job reliably. We’ve had reliable and productive wind turbines for many years now. What changed was the politics–or what I call public policy–that made projects possible.

There also was a subtle change in the design of the wind turbines and this change was something that wind pioneers had been arguing for from the very beginning. As I note in my new book, Wind Energy for the Rest of Us, engineers in the 1950s were designing wind turbines with very big rotors relative to the size of their electrical generators. This allows wind turbines in places like the Midwest to not only generate more electricity than typical wind turbines, but to operate more of the time. The latter feature makes modern wind turbines easier to integrate into the grid. Unfortunately, it took the wind industry nearly three decades to make that subtle shift.

The article went on to note that I was working on a book about wind energy. I’ve since written seven books on wind energy.