A Winter Run Through an Iowa Wind Farm

Wind farm and tractor

Over the past few years, the part of Iowa where I grew up has seen some big changes. As Iowa has become one of the largest generators of wind power in the United States, more and more of the state has become home to wind farms.

This weekend I could not help but be drawn to the wind farm just outside my hometown in north-central Iowa. It’s been there for a while, but is new to me since my last visit.

My first good look at the wind farm
My first good look at the wind farm

The towering wind turbines beckoned. I put on all my winter layers, turned my face into the stiff headwind, and pointed my feet toward the mechanical space-age giants.

It is not surprising to me that Iowa would be a good spot for wind farms– I only needed my brisk run to confirm that– but the way their presence has changed the landscape is.

The new Iowa horizon
The new Iowa horizon

From a distance the wind turbines look like contemporary jumbo-size windmills, their three fan blades circling in the breeze.

Up close, they look like they could be dormant robots awaiting activation. They’re not robots, though. At least, not as far as I could discern.

Approaching the robots, I mean wind turbines
Approaching the robots, I mean wind turbines

Before approaching them up close and personal I thought they would be quiet, but the turbines make an insistent mechanized whooshing sound, as a motor propels the wind turbines’ blades the blades circle around and around to power the wind turbine’s generator. It is not terribly loud, but enough to alter the peaceful silence of the countryside.

Shadow of a wind turbine
Shadow of a wind turbine

The wind turbines are all adorned with red lights and when returning home in the evening I could see them dotted across the fields.

I imagine many people do not even think much about the wind farms’ presence, but I found them to be quite surreal and they made me irrationally uncomfortable.

Maybe it is the the wind farms’ relative newness to the area. Maybe it’s from watching too many Transformers episodes as a kid.

Wind Farm
Wind Farm

It’s going to take some time for me to view these wind turbines interrupting the smooth line of the corn fields as a permanent addition the Iowa horizon.

And that’s all my Iowa news! Tomorrow it’s back to all coffeeneuring, all the time.

13 thoughts on “A Winter Run Through an Iowa Wind Farm

  1. There is a massive wind farm along I-65 northwest of Indianapolis. I agree with you they look like robots from War of the Worlds. Have you seen the Garrett wind farm near the GAP trail? Totally cool.

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  2. On a week ride across NY state in the summer of 2012, we passed through a wind farm. I find them to be fascinating, elegantly built, majestic. I worry a lot about the impact on birds, though. A few people and I stopped to take pictures at the top of the ridge and a local fellow in a car stopped to talk. He said that the windmills were a source of contention among the neighbors. The windmill owners pay the landowners to lease the space, nice monthly rental fees. But the sound is very annoying to a lot of the other neighbors, who object to them because of that. Two sides to every thing.

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  3. The landscape near my parents (they live in SW MN) has also been altered by the installation of hundreds of wind turbines. I understand the concerns that people have about the noise and appearance of them. But I will say that they are much more pleasant sounding than the older ones. We had a small (14kw) wind turbine on our farm for years, and when it was windy it always sounded like it was going to fly apart. Freaked me out as a kid. I’ll take the long whoosh of the newer ones any day.

    Glad that you were able to get a good run in, the LHF run down in Des Moines was the same weekend. The water crossings were…bracing.

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  4. I never realized how sort of frightening looking these things are before I saw them up close on the way to West Virginia. They are definitely a landscape changer and I can see why people would not want to live too close to them. The birds are another consideration. Nothing’s 100% good (or bad), I suppose.

    Miss you Mary!

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  5. Several years ago this “plague” arrived to my parents’ hometown (Fuentealamo, Albacete, Spain). I agree that progress is necessary, but sometimes it is difficult to calculate the cost of our actions. I mean, how much is alteration of those beatiful horizons in Iowa? At a first glance, turbines look futuristic (wow), like hydrofarms in Star Wars, but after a while I miss the endless view of La Mancha skies. The good part: it is clean energy, but also easy money for land owners and… who’s the owner of the landscape: all of us. Inside me I feel like if I’ve been robbed.

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