The blades of the first windmill spun millennia ago. Today, they are spinning a world of energy independence and jobs amid the gales of climate change.
Essentially from the start of our own timeline, humans have captured wind energy and put it to work. It moved boats along the Nile over seven millennia ago. Hammurabi, King of Babylon, first used windmills for irrigation around 3,700 years ago. The Dutch used windmills to pump water and build polders—a low-lying land protected by dikes—and in 1650 AD, wind provided about a third of the country’s energy. By the turn of the 19th century, 200,000 windmills had spread throughout Europe, but they stopped spreading with the emergence of the fossil-fuel loving internal combustion engine. Before the electric grid spread across America in the middle of the 20th century, the only electricity most farmers could access came from either windmills or waterwheels.
That was then, this is now—a now where the winds of change are blowing.
For every season—turn, turn, turn
Wind energy comes from the sun. In a way, it’s solar power. The surface of the earth is heated unevenly by solar radiation. The atmospheric changes in temperature and pressure cause hot air to rise and cool and move around the surface of the earth in the form of wind. Wind turbines are designed to turn this movement into power.
The Wind Is Blowing
A whole new meaning to ‘spin jobs’
Wind power in the United States is creating welcomed economic development in rural America. Wind has become one of the fastest-growing industries in the U.S. Its impact on the heartland’s prosperity is revolutionary. Wind power is creating thousands of manufacturing, construction, and maintenance jobs that pay an average salary of $53,000 per year.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts rural landowners who lease their land to wind farms could reap as much as $900 million a year in total by 2030. Wind energy benefits not only individual farms but low-income counties as well. Wind power investments of more than $100 billion are going into these counties, home to 70% of today’s wind capacity. Bloomberg Businessweek sees wind as the ‘new corn’ for struggling farmers.
The added income from wind projects also provides farmers and ranchers a new and steady source of income. Today, farmers and ranchers who host wind turbines are paid over a quarter of a billion dollars in lease payments every year. This added income helps them make it through fluctuations in market prices and harvests damaged by extreme weather events. Wind power revenue helps local school districts offer their students the best of educations while keeping local taxes low.
Over 99% of our wind energy capacity is in rural areas. The expanded tax base from wind helps create new revenue for infrastructure improvement as well as funding law enforcement and other municipal services. Local taxes in Sheldon, New York have been eliminated for eight years because wind power bridged their entire budget gap.
Making a turn for the better.
A single rotation of this wind turbine can power a home for an entire day.
Engineers are working on turbines that would be ten times as powerful and taller than the Empire State Building. A single rotation of this wind turbine can power a home for an entire day. This kind of efficiency and innovation makes wind power the cheapest source of power. And while wind power is only getting cheaper, there is enough wind blowing in Texas alone to power the entire country. We need to harness this renewable power and make a turn for the better.
A shift to a clean energy future will grow our economy, clean our environment, ensure our energy independence, and help solve our climate challenge.