Wind power is booming in Iowa

Windmills once dotted the Iowa landscape. Converting the energy of the wind into mechanical energy helped run pumps and other machinery on Iowa farms, and elsewhere, long before electrical power made its appearance.

A high-tech, 21st-century cousin of those windmills, so important in years gone by, could be one of the key ingredients to energy self-sufficiency for the United States.

Wind-based generation of electricity is a technology that offers the promise of vast amounts of electric power produced with few environmental downsides.

Our society has a voracious appetite for energy, and the demand for even more energy is growing fast. That makes overreliance on those energy resources that once used are gone forever both short-sighted and, ultimately, catastrophically foolish.

As our nation seeks energy sources that have long-term viability, concern about renewability has grown. The booming ethanol industry offers part of the answer to how energy needs can be met using resources that can be replenished. Wind power also has the potential to be a major part of tomorrow’s energy picture.

Making use of wind to generate electricity has enormous implications for the United States. The goal of generating 20 percent of the nation’s electricity from wind power by 2030 appears highly achievable. Iowa already has surpassed that target. It leads the nation with an impressive 27.4 percent of its electricity wind-generated.

Turning wind power into electric power is a growing reality in many parts of the world, including the United States. In 2013, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, about 4 percent of U.S. electricity was produced from wind turbines and that capacity is increasing rapidly.

By the end of 2013, according to the American Wind Energy Association, wind-generated electricity nationally surpassed 61,000 megawatts. That is enough energy to power 15.5 million American homes. A statement released by the AWEA this month put the contribution of wind energy to new electricity generating capacity created in the U.S. from 2009 to 2013 at an impressive 31 percent. There are now more than 46,000 wind turbines online in the U.S.

Iowa tops all other states in the percentage of electricity produced from wind. Clearly, Iowa is showing other states how to make this new energy source viable.

Energy can be produced in perpetuity from our fields and the gentle winds that blow across them.

It’s not too hard to imagine a day – perhaps not so many decades hence – when people will think of Iowa not just as the breadbasket of the nation, but also as a critical source of the energy that makes our way of life possible.