The “Giants” of I-80

Wind turbines
Snacks, check. Water bottles, check. “Hanna Montana” DVDs, check. Three daughters excited to go to Grandma’s house. Triple check. That’s just a fraction of my long list when I load up my kids and make that two hours plus drive to western Iowa. Grandma’s house is a big deal to little girls! It means extra attention, extra hugs and extra cookies. Yes, daddy likes the cookies too!

We head out of Des Moines on I-80 westbound, I put the cruise on 77, because we all “have a friend who’s a cop and he says if you’re gonna speed” well…you know the rest. Hanna Montana is belting one of her hits in the back DVD player as I zone out and scan the road and the Iowa countryside.

The miles melt away; the sun is setting in the west. I see the corn and bean fields, silos, black Angus cattle grazing in the pasture, small towns with their names proudly painted on sides of the water towers; dwarfing the homes, businesses and gas stations below.

Then I see them. They almost sneak up on you. But before you know it, they’re on top of you, I mean really “on top” of you! They are sleek, modern looking and, well, really tall! They move too, they spin, and spin and spin. My youngest daughter yells it out, “Windmills Daddy!” “Yeah,” I say. “Aren’t they cool?” She agrees, “Yep, they look like giants!” Giants. Good way to put it. Don’t you just love kid logic?
I look to both sides of the interstate, they’re everywhere. Spinning; generating power; clean green, power; hundreds of gleaming, white wind turbines catching that persistent, and sometimes hair destroying Iowa wind. It’s amazing to watch them work, amazing to gaze at their size and amazing that Iowa has so many of them now. In fact, word has it we are now 2nd in the country behind Texas in wind power generated! Cool! That’s what we call braggin’ rights! Look out Long Horns! (Click here to read about our new ranking)

I’m a video producer and I’ve shot plenty of footage of these “Giants” from a far and up close, very close, as in right underneath; even been inside one. When you crank your neck all the way back and watch those huge blades spin down on you, and you hear that mild thrumming of the turbine engine inside you can’t help but just think “wow, this thing is tall, almost scary tall!”
(See how tall here…)

Another thing I like about these “Silent Sentinels of the Midwest”, poetic, no? Is that some Iowa farmers own and operate their own wind farms. I know and have interviewed a few for video projects. They’ve joined with fellow farmers and built their wind farms from the ground up. Now they not only harvest crops, but the wind too and provide power to nearby communities!

So bottom line, Iowa is becoming a leader in wind power and that’s a good thing, it’s good for the environment, generates income and can help us move away from foreign oil…something I think most of us would like.

Back on I-80, the “Giants” fade into my rear view mirror…Hanna Montana is still singing and off to Grandma’s we go.

Written by Jeremy Coyle
Jeremy serves as Senior Producer - Electronic Media Services for Iowa Farm Bureau.