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June 1, 2010 – What a lovely experience: my husband and I drove up to Chicago for the holiday weekend. It’s a trip we have made countless times, but this time we were treated to a sight I hope will become much more common during the years ahead. As we drove north on I65, in the vicinity of Lafayette, Indiana, we came upon windmills. At first we saw them on just one side of the expressway, placed in rows that reached the horizon. Then my husband exclaimed “Look! They’re on both sides of the road now!” The graceful behemoths were as thrilling a sight as coming upon a group of whales might have been. There was an unexpected grandeur, even dignity, in the propellers’ leisurely pace. The fact of their seemingly independent motion conferred upon them a sentience they did not possess, but which was heightened by their uniform activity, almost as if they all agreed with regard to something of considerable importance. Actually, we did see an occasional turbine standing still; however, the majority were engaged in an energy-generating purposefulness, a mechanical meeting of the minds. It was a happy sight that continued for roughly ten miles.

I wanted to learn more about the Hoosier state’s forward-looking plans in action.

Though one website I visited maintained that Indiana is not well-suited to pursuing production of wind-generated energy, with average winds of less than 10mph statewide, other sites indicated that both individuals and agencies have plunged ahead and are not to be denied. Indeed, while southern Indiana is home to some pretty cloudy/rainy weather, homeowners there and across the Ohio river in Kentucky are participating in net metering, which means they can reverse their electric meter, based on the power they’re producing, back as far as zero. The farmers and homeowners interviewed (see, accessed June 1, 2010) said they didn’t expect to recover their investments. Their priority was decreasing their coal-generated energy usage.

Indiana enacted their net-metering program in 2005. Unfortunately, it has been given an “F” by the Network for New Energy Choices because of its very weak administrative code. Furthermore, it does not offer net metering to businesses, an egregious oversight. One can only hope municipalities will elect to set a worthwhile example. Neighboring states Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, and Michigan all earned “B’s.”

Cincinnati, where I live, is not considered a good candidate for wind-generated energy or solar power. The sun’s appearance cannot be taken for granted, and the Appalachian foothills that comprise this river valley town contribute to the winds’ somewhat circular pattern here. Geothermal energy is conceded to be the best bet hereabouts, yet it was not even mentioned in a list of renewable alternatives for Indiana, which I thought was odd.

It isn’t the least bit surprising that our embrace of new forms of energy production has taken the form of a hesitant two steps forward, one step back. We have been enacting the parts of very shy, awkward, kissing third cousins. The problem now is that we no longer have the luxury of pussy footing. Like it or not, the time for shyness and awkwardness is in the past. We must act more confidently than we feel, and plan for the future as if we knew what lies ahead. Our children will thank us.


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