Wind Turbines a Welcome Sight

Over the weekend I drove from Chicago to Springfield, IL. I’ve always dreaded the brutally boring three and a half hour trip and the inevitable battle with highway hypnosis brought on by scenery dominated by mile after mile of corn and soybean fields. It has been months since I have made the trek to my old hometown, so I was pleasantly surprised to see something new on the route I’ve been driving for years. Wind turbines. Lots and lots of wind turbines.

Two new wind farms have popped up right off of I-55 this year (if you are making the drive they are hard to miss, but keep your eyes open near the I-72 turnoff to Peoria and on the outskirts of Bloomington-Normal, home of Illinois State University). And an existing Horizon Energy wind farm a bit more than an hour south of Chicago (between Odell and Morris, IL) has swelled to an enormous scale, living up to the company name with turbines running as far as the eye can see on both sides of the road. That is a tiny portion of it at the top of the post; photographed through my windshield, on a cellphone, going…ummm…let’s say 65 mph (so, no complaints about the image quality).

It used to be that the last interesting sight on the drive south was an Exxon refinery in Joliet. So rather than the image of filth-belching skyward lingering in my mind for hours, the drive is now punctuated by the gorgeous sight of spinning turbines generating clean energy. I simply find them fascinating (prompting my wife to snap at me repeatedly to keep my eyes on the road). Of course, this is also kinda symbolic of our transportation future too: moving away from the refinery and towards electric vehicles powered by renewable energy sources.

Much of NRDC’s energy policy work can be deep in the weeds stuff that isn’t tangible in my day-to-day life. And yet, here the landscape has been improved in significant and impossible-to-miss fashion by, at least in part, policy that the enviro community helped advance. Illinois, like many states in the Midwest and across the country, has a renewable energy portfolio goal. The state is pushing to get 25% of its energy from wind energy, solar power, geothermal energy and other renewable energy sources by 2025.

Since the RPS was passed, Illinois has seen 1700 MW of wind power built and will enjoy the billions of dollars in economic impact that come will continue to come over the lifetime of the turbines—including significant job creation. And, since I am a tad self-absorbed, I am pretty psyched to see that it has hugely improved the drive home!

Josh Mogerman,