Long before rural electrification programs were in place in the United States, farmers and ranchers had the option to generate their own electricity and store it in battery banks using wind-driven generators. These windmills were popular during the first half of the 20th century, but they were never very practical and since they generated direct current, matching their output to appliances and lights became more difficult as the country adopted alternating current as the standard. Sure, inverters were available to convert the direct current into alternating current, but they weren’t terribly efficient and further complicated the systems. By 1960, most of these antiquated systems were put out to pasture because federal subsidies made it possible to connect remote homesteads and ranches to the grid. Until the last decade or so, most folks haven’t even thought about using the wind to generate electricity. But all that is changing.
Windmills, large and small, are once again cropping up all over the countryside, but this time they are generating electricity in a big way. Some mills turn generators, and others turn alternators that create alternating current directly, but all help reduce the need for burning fossil fuel to light our farms. The technology is still expensive, but a $12,000 investment can generate one-third to two-thirds of an average home’s electrical requirements – if you live where the wind blows reliably, that is.Giant multimillion dollar electricity-generating wind turbines are also springing up all over the windswept plains. To some, these windmills represent a cleaner, more sustainable way to power the grid. To others, they are an eyesore. In either case, the age of wind power is still with us and will remain as long as the wind blows.
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