Interested in the state of wind energy in Wisconsin and beyond? Still wondering why I biked nearly 1300 miles around the upper Midwest to visit 48 wind energy farms? Tune in on Monday, October 30th at 11:00 AM to the Larry Meiller show on the Ideas Network on Wisconsin Public Radio (https://www.wpr.org/listen-live, FM88.7 or AM970 in Madison, FM90.7 in Milwaukee) as I will be the in-studio guest to talk about one of my favorite topics, Benefits and Challenges of Wind Energy. As I always like to say, It’s a Great Day for wind!
Proud of our Sustainable Systems Engineering (SSE) online degree and their sponsorship of the 2017 Ride with RENEW event. Great to be out in the local area and see so many renewable energy facilities successfully operating. These types of facilities are exactly what our SSE degree program teaches, both in theory and in design. For more information, please check out our SSE degree offerings.
Pleased to see that 20% of the electrical energy on Jeju Island (an island south of the South Korean mainland with multiple UNESCO World Heritage Sites and natural beauty) comes from clean, domestic, affordable wind energy. I visited two of these sites and my guide indicated that wind energy was very favorably received by the residents of this island and that the wind turbines blend in very well to the natural scenery and view sheds. They much, much prefer wind energy to imported energy (via power cable from the mainland or fossil-based generation on the island).
For all of you out there that have gone on a bike touring trip and/or are contemplating a wonderful endeavor such as bike touring of any length, following are some of my learned experiences from a largely self-contained 1300-mile trip:
What Worked Exceptionally Well
- Model Year 2000 (purchased in 2001) Cannondale T2000 ‘Adventure’ model
- I now have 29,750 miles on this incredible bike — best bike that I have ever owned!
- Original rims, frame, fenders, rack, and most components (outside of the drivetrain, which I completely replaced for this trip with new Shimano Deore components, crank arm, pedals)
- Made in the USA!
- ‘Bullet-Proof’ Aluminum Frame
- Upright handlebars (partially modified) allowed me to ‘see’ the country and provided multiple grip positions to alleviate stress and pressures to the hands
- Shimano M089 SPD Mountain Bike Shoes
- Shoes and feet were never an issue, pretty much says it all
- Bell Stoker Helmet
- Comfortable, well fitting, relatively light
- Under Armour MapMyRide App
- For a trip like this (out in unfamiliar terrain), must have a great map application, MapMyRide was just that — easy to use, plan routes, and track progress
- Could generally use this app intensively for about 5 hours before the i-Phone battery petered out
What Did NOT Work so Well
- TaoTronics Bicycle Phone Mount — My i-Phone 6s routinely (11 times) popped out of this not-so-secure mounting system. On a trip of this length, phone security must be fool proof, this product did NOT securely fasten my phone, particularly at the bottom of hills when hitting bumps at higher speeds.
- Transit Escape DX Panniers — generally solid, but three issues cropped up
- The yellow auxiliary covers, while great in ease of use and general design, severely degraded in color intensity from being exposed to the sun for two weeks. At the end of the trip, the yellow had faded considerably, thus offering less than ideal visibility, which is what I was using them for.
- The rack clips are vertical, which means that they impede placement of a sleeping mattress or similar
- The lower clip to the rack is compression based. I lost one clip after three days of riding from apparent vibration issues. These clips should also be foolproof and not subject to vibration-induced loosening. I rode for most of the trip without the bottom clip on one pannier, which then allows for the pannier to bounce around a bit — not insurmountable, but not ideal.
- i-Phone Touch Screen
- Simply put, if it is warm and humid and/or in combination with sweaty hands, the touch screen does NOT function. I often went for 1-2 hours without being able to use my phone unless I went inside an AC gas station or similar
- AT&T Service/Reception in several remote areas of SE Minnesota and SW Wisconsin
- I did not have internet service and sometimes phone service for a few hours on several different occasions. Quite simply, when in unfamiliar territory, availability of mobile service is critical, especially when you need to know when and where to turn onto new roads. Also, one time along the Root River trail in SE Minnesota, phone service was not available so I could not reserve a hotel. Ended up biking to three different B&Bs before finally securing a reservation in person because my phone was not getting reception.
Now that I have safely returned to Madison and am back to the office full time (ugh!), time to reminisce about some observations of my foray into Wind Energy sites across the upper Midwest.
- Wind Energy is alive, well, and growing in the upper Midwest — I biked through 48 wind energy sites and encountered thousands of wind turbines of all sizes, capacities, and varieties.
- The people that I met and talked with along the route — my favorite experience, amongst many, was talking for 20 minutes with a 90-year-old lady at a convenience store/cafe near the Minnesota/Iowa border who was just enamored with what I was doing and had the most engaging personality!
- Numerous interviews on route, including:
- WKOW in Madison
- WSAW in Wausau
- WEAU in Eau Claire
- WKBT (Channel8000) in La Crosse
- Newspapers in Stanley, Cadott, and La Crosse…
- The Badger Herald
- Coverage in national newsletters such as Wind Energy SmartBrief and North American WindPower
- Beautiful biking trails that I traveled on, including
- Fox River State Trail (into Green Bay)
- Mountain-Bay State Trail (out of Green Bay all the way to Wausau)
- Minneapolis metro trail system including the Luce Line State Trail
- Root River State Trail
- La Crosse River State Trail
- Elroy-Sparta State Trail
- Unfortunately, many of the people that I talked with in Wisconsin had limited background knowledge and perspective of the benefits of wind energy. Hopefully my trip, discussions, and in-state media interviews will help move the conversation forward.
- Wisconsin’s very small footprint of wind energy in the state (only 2.6% of state electrical needs, whereas Minnesota is at 18% and Iowa at 36% wind energy penetration). Wisconsin is a state for which we could easily achieve 10% wind energy by 2025 with the proper political will and drivers.
- Headwinds of up to 18 mph — while great for wind energy, they made for a couple of extremely taxing biking days!
- No shoulders on many county roads and/or shoulders with rumble strips or cracked pavement that make for difficult biking conditions, especially when sharing the road with 40-ton grain trucks ☹️.
- 7 Hill Road near Taycheedah (WI) — not the type of road that you want to be on towards the end of a 92-mile day straight into a strong headwind!
- Road construction and unplanned detours — transportation officials do not routinely consider accommodations for bikes when roadblocks go up.
- Loose gravel roads that go on for miles and miles, particularly in SW Minnesota and north-central Iowa.
- A very small but vocal minority that espouse tired, old, and false narratives; alternative facts; and regurgitated talking points from ‘energy think tanks‘ with hidden agendas.
- Unmaintained bike paths (in particular, Mountain-Bay State Trail from Pulaski to Shawano and the Hillsboro State Trail from Hillsboro to Union Center).
Glad to report that I safely arrived back in Madison at 3:30 PM after traveling 1278 miles on my bike to promote #BikeTheWind. Had a great homecoming reception with my friends and colleagues at the Department of Engineering Professional Development. Then, a great dinner with Glorily and Mama Lydia to welcome me home. Pretty darn tired now, so a short post tonight (I’ll post more in the next few days about my favorite experiences and stories from the road). For now, here are some links to my 90 seconds of fame in La Crosse:
PS: Not able to visit the Quilt Block construction site in Lafayette County this week due to vacation for my contact there; hopefully, will get down there next week to observe the construction activities and report out.
…to the place, I belong, Madison, Wisconsin!
Had a wonderful 92-mile ride yesterday from La Crosse, Wisconsin, to Reedsburg. About 50% of the route was on the Wisconsin Trail System, including the incredible La Crosse River Trail and the Elroy-Sparta State Trail. Two categorized climbs, a Category 4 and a Category 3. PS, the Category 4 was much, much worse as it was steeper and occurred later in the day!
Included on my route was a visit to Cashton to observe the setting of the Gundersen Lutheran / Organic Valley set of two turbines. These are private, company-owned turbines that specifically generate power for corporate facilities and/or renewable energy power purchase commitments. In Wisconsin, similar projects exist at the SC Johnson Waxdale Facility in Racine and Epic System’s Galactic Wind outside of Verona. These are proactive companies that have what I call 20/20 Wind Vision.
Today, I am heading home via a route through Devil’s Lake that includes two last categorized climbs. Below, are some of the views from yesterday’s route: