When you leave town for a couple of months, you expect a few things to change while you're gone. Seasons turn, so fields, trees, gardens and lawns appear to be a little different. Maybe there's a house down the street with a new paint job, or a neighbor with a new car. You look at your friends, and maybe someone's got a different haircut or a new pair of glasses.
And usually, that's about it.
After all, two months is really a pretty short span of time in the whole scheme of things.
So even though I knew it was coming, I wasn't really prepared for what's happened to the landscape between and around Galva, Bishop Hill and points west.
I refer, of course, to the fast-growing field of wind turbines that is sprouting throughout the countryside hereabouts.
Now, let me start right off by stating that I'm pro-windpower.
I believe in alternative energy ideas.
I believe in energy sources that will make us less dependent on those who have less than our best interests at heart.
I believe, too, in energy producers that don't pollute the air or water, or threaten to blow us off the map.
And I even kind of like the way the giant windmills look, with their awe-inspiring height and graceful, slow-turning rotors. Admittedly, I might feel differently if I had one in my backyard, and I understand how some Bishop Hill residents might be a trifle concerned about the contrast between the ultra-modern structures and the 19th-century image of the historic village. But even if I wasn't crazy about the new look to the landscape, I'd surely prefer it to some of those other energy producing alternatives, like coal mines, oil wells and nukes. Moreover, Invenergy, the alt-energy company that's building the new wind farms, has recently dropped a cool half-million-dollar "investment" on its home base of Bishop Hill, with the money to be split between the village and groups like the Bishop Hill Heritage Association and Arts Council. Add that to the three million dollars in property taxes the company will pay this year, which will help support important entities like schools and libraries, plus the two-and-a-half million landowners will receive for the land leased for the towers, and you're looking at a much-needed, just-in-time kick in our economic pants.
And, of course, there are the jobs and related activities that have provided a welcome boost to stores, gas stations, hotels and restaurants, with a nice roster of good-paying, full-time jobs on the horizon for the future.
Change is probably inevitable, no matter what. And innovative ideas are often what drive that change, whether we like it or not. But just in case you feel like wind power is a little too new-fangled for your taste, consider a comment made by a well-known Illinois politician when he was running for office.
“Of all the forces of nature, I should think the wind contains the largest amount of motive power … Take any given space of the earth’s surface, for instance, Illinois, and all the power exerted by all the men, beasts, running water and steam over and upon it shall not equal the 100th part of what is exerted by the blowing of the wind over and upon the same place. And yet it has not, so far in the world’s history, become properly valued as motive power. It is applied extensively and advantageously to sail vessels in navigation. Add to this a few windmills and pumps and you have about all. As yet the wind is an untamed, unharnessed force, and quite possibly one of the greatest discoveries hereafter to be made will be the taming and harnessing of it.”
Who said it? You might have heard of him. He was running for president back in 1860, and delivered a lecture titled "Discoveries and Inventions" while on the campaign trail.
His name was Abraham Lincoln.