The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

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.

A VERY tired Jim completes the 1278-mile main route of his #BikeTheWind odyssey with a return to Engineering Professional Development, which is housed in the Extension Building.

The Good

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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
  4. 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

The Bad

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Headwinds of up to 18 mph — while great for wind energy, they made for a couple of extremely taxing biking days!
  4. 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 ☹️.
  5. 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!


The Ugly

  1. Road construction and unplanned detours — transportation officials do not routinely consider accommodations for bikes when roadblocks go up.
  2. Loose gravel roads that go on for miles and miles, particularly in SW Minnesota and north-central Iowa.
  3. 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.
  4. Unmaintained bike paths (in particular, Mountain-Bay State Trail from Pulaski to Shawano and the Hillsboro State Trail from Hillsboro to Union Center).

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