Windmills once dotted the Iowa landscape. Converting the energy of the wind into mechanical energy helped run pumps and other machinery on Iowa farms, and elsewhere, long before electrical power made its appearance.
A high-tech, 21st-century cousin of those windmills, so important in years gone by, could be one of the key ingredients to energy self-sufficiency for the United States.
Wind-based generation of electricity is a technology that offers the promise of vast amounts of electric power produced with few environmental downsides.
Our society has a voracious appetite for energy, and the demand for even more energy is growing fast. That makes overreliance on those energy resources that once used are gone forever both short-sighted and, ultimately, catastrophically foolish.
As our nation seeks energy sources that have long-term viability, concern about renewability has grown. The booming ethanol industry offers part of the answer to how energy needs can be met using resources that can be replenished. Wind power also has the potential to be a major part of tomorrow's energy picture.
Making use of wind to generate electricity has enormous implications for the United States. The goal of generating 20 percent of the nation's electricity from wind power by 2030 appears highly achievable. Two states - Iowa and South Dakota - already have surpassed that target.
Turning wind power into electric power is already a reality in many parts of the world, including the United States. In 2011, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 3 percent of U.S. electricity was produced from wind turbines and that capacity is increasing rapidly.
In our nation there was a 28 percent increase in the energy generated by wind in 2012, according to the American Wind Energy Association. A statement released by the AWEA in April put the contribution of wind energy to new electricity generating capacity created in the U.S. during 2012 at an impressive 42 percent. More than 6,700 new wind turbines came online last year.
Iowa is a national wind-energy leader. In 2012, 24.5 percent of the Hawkeye State's electricity was wind-generated. Iowa tops all other states in the percentage of electricity produced from wind. Clearly, Iowa is showing other states how to make this increasingly important energy source viable.
Energy can be produced in perpetuity from our fields and the gentle winds that blow across them.
It's not too hard to imagine a day - perhaps not so many decades hence - when people will think of Iowa not just as the breadbasket of the nation, but also as a critical source of the energy that makes our way of life possible.