And unfortunately, many of the areas where the conditions are most favorable are far removed from the urban centers where the need is the greatest. For example, one Energy Department study concludes that the best place in the country to erect wind turbines is on the cold, barren Aleutian Islands that extend more than 1,000 miles out to sea from western Alaska.
The wind always blows there, frequently at extraordinary speeds, but only a handful of people live on the islands so there's not a great need for electricity. But some scientists have argued that electricity generated in the Aleutians could be used for other purposes, such as the extraction of hydrogen from sea water, which requires a lot of electricity.
The hydrogen then could be shipped south to pave the way for the much touted "hydrogen economy" which is supposed to be just around the corner.
But such a bold move probably is not necessary for this country to reap enormous benefits from wind power. Wind turbines can be very compatible with other land uses, such as farming and ranching. One Department of Energy report notes that farmers could continue farming, and ranchers could continue ranching, while collecting a nice little royalty from the local utility company for the use of just enough ground to erect a tall tower.
That's sort of like history repeating itself.
In the early years of this country, farmers across the land borrowed from the Dutch and erected thousands of windmills to pump water for their farms, and even to generate electricity for their homes. Now, perhaps we're about to come full circle.