Drawing a lot of discussion on the campaign trail is the push for alternative energy. It's a debate we seemed to get a head start on here in Kansas, with the controversy over Sunflower Electric's desire to build two coal-fired generating plants near Holcomb. Perhaps that's why my recent drive back to Wisconsin brought a bit of a sense of deja vu. Last fall, we drove up for a family function and, as we rounded the east side of Lake Winnebago on Hwy. 151, noticed signs in many yards urging people to vote "no" on wind. Last week, as we made the turn out of Fon du Lac, we first noticed off in the distance a line of wind turbines stretching high into the sky from atop a ridge. A quick search tells me this is Wisconsin Power and Light's Cedar Ridge Wind Farm, with 41 turbines spinning out power. But that wasn't the most impressive site. A little further along and a bit closer to the highway, we saw this looming into view:
A search reveals this is the We Energies Wind Farm, with 88 turbines churning out enough electricity to power more than 36,000 homes. It is a bit startling to see them come into view - a bit like an army of alien beings marching across the farm fields. Not necessarily bad, just different. Seeing this, though, reminds me of the debate over whether wind farms such as this would be good or bad in the Flint Hills of Kansas. Wisconsin, by the way, has a goal that 10 percent of the state's energy will come from renewable sources by 2015. Which leads to the second part of my deja vu. On the way home, we were listening a local radio station in southwest Wisconsin, when we heard an ad from the administrator for the village of Cassville, expression support for Alliant Energy's proposed new plant in their community and questioning why the politicians in Madison had such a problem with it. The plant would be - you guessed it - coal-fired. A Reuters article on the project says it would generate about 2.9 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, but would be offset by plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 3.5 million tons a year. Their proposal also calls for expanding wind power and doubling the amount of biomass it burns, including fuels such as switch grass, waste wood or corn stalks. I found other articles mentioning the ad campaigns mounted by groups on both sides of the debate. I chuckled at the ad I heard, and commented to my husband, "Looks like Kansas isn't alone." I'm sure it's a debate that will be repeated all over the nation and world, but I found it interesting to hear it echoed in my two homes!