I grew up with windmills and the sound of rusty squeak, squeak (and an occasional moo to go with). Never have I seen what appeared to be hundreds of monolith, towering wind turbines overpowering the landscape. All standing on one leg, so to speak, with three powerful blades woo-wooing and sluicing through the air. It was awesome to see upon the Kansas prairies and hills, and it appeared that these giants faced the south with the north at their backs.
The Topeka Capital Journal newspaper, Topeka, Kansas, has a very informative article about these turbine wind farms:
Ironworker Ernest Small secured the last of 270 wrist-sized bolts steadying the three blades of a modern-day sentinel of the plains.
Operators of an enormous crane had already created a turbine tower at the Smoky Hills Wind Farm by stacking four hollow steel tubes, each smaller than the latter, onto a 50-foot square concrete foundation tucked underground. The crane operator then placed the nacelle — a fancy name for the Greyhound bus-sized unit containing a gear box, low- and high-speed shaft, generator, controller and brake — atop the tower 250 feet above a beautiful slice of prairie landscape.
In an equally delicate maneuver, the first 17,000-pound blade prepared by Small was hoisted into the air and slipped into place against the hub. Addition of two identical blades gave the turbine a wing span greater than a Boeing 747.
All in the name of catching a good breeze.
“We live in wind central,” said Frank Costanza, an executive with Tradewind Energy of Lenexa. “It’s a business whose time has come.”
Tradewind and Enel North America, a subsidiary of Italy’s largest utility, are collaborating to bring a wind farm to life on 22,000 acres south of Lincoln and west of Salina. More than 100 turbines will be tenants on the site straddling Interstate 70. Each sleek white machine will be viewed as bonanza of economic development opportunity to some, environmentally benign source of power to others and visual blasphemy to more than a few.
Smoky Hills and three existing Kansas commercial wind farms are in the business to funnel electricity to utility companies diversifying power supply portfolios sustained for decades by coal, natural gas or nuclear fuel.
But capturing the zephyr streaming across the state is doing more than brighten light bulbs — it is energizing Kansas’ green revolution.
I shot many photographs of the wind turbines at various angles within the Kansas landscape while the morning sun burned off the fog. Have a look-see of my photo story of these giants captured in various landscape hues…
We began our journey at dawn as the sun rose above the foggy Flint Hills.
As the morning brightened, we entered the Smoky Hills, passing Salina, Kansas, going west for about 20 miles. We could see the wind turbines in the distance.
Preston and I hiked and explored areas where we could get close to the wind turbines to take photographs. We drove out into the country on a dirt road, and then by a farm. We met cows and a salamander. It was an amazing photo shoot.
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