Energy from the sun, in the form of wind, plant matter, and heat and light, is renewable. Renewable energy offers a clean, cost effective alternative to fossil fuels and nuclear power. Producing power from these renewable sources can be far less environmentally damaging than conventional energy supplies. Wind power, more than any other renewable energy technology, is a proven, non-polluting renewable resource that is beginning, and will continue, to play an important role in meeting energy needs in the Upper Midwest.
People have harnessed the wind throughout history to convert wind energy into useable energy. Less than 100 years ago, millions of small windmills provided an important source of power for rural homes throughout the United States. These machines powered water pumps and converted wind into electricity. Beginning in the 1930s, rural electrification programs began to extend the electrical grid into the countryside, replacing wind energy with electricity generated from fossil fuels and large hydroelectric projects. The once abundant wind machines that were a common feature of the rural landscape have largely disappeared from sight.
Today, however, new wind machines are beginning to appear on the landscape, as windy rural areas tap a unique opportunity to benefit from wind power. Modern wind turbine technology now makes it possible to generate cost-effective, clean, renewable electricity on a scale ranging from a single wind turbine for an individual landowner up to large, utility-scale "wind farms." Declining costs and improving technology are quickly making electricity generated from wind energy competitive with all types of nonrenewable fuels, like new coal-fired generation.