Wind in the Willows
Things are a little bit solemn around the farm today. Uncle Jerry died last night, from complications due to amyloidosis, a rare disease where abnormal proteins build up in a person's internal organs. Please keep our aunt, our cousins and their families, and our family in your thoughts and prayers...
It seems to me that wind is one force of nature, and one element of climate, that deserves quite a bit more consideration. Trying to understand the place of South Dakota means reckoning with wind as a constant, gusty, and unpredictable force, filled with renewable energy potential if we can overcome the regulatory and business hurdles like transmission line development.
Wind Power. I keep reminding my family that we are never going to be really comfortable and happy about our windy home until the wind starts doing some good for us, which is one of the biggest reasons I want to get wind turbines out on the farm. Luckily, we have a lot of wind potential, according to both global studies (see the green dot over south central SD) and more locally specific estimates. Note that according to this study, our peninsula is slightly less windy than surrounding areas, which is hard to imagine, but still has great wind potential.
Our land just east of the Missouri River and north of Chamberlain and I-90 has two large wind turbines on the adjoining quarter section, and we would love to put a couple up on our property if we can find the right wind developer. Here's a picture of the two of them from our land there.
Given that these two turbines are operating a short walk from our land, my guess is that we would have the infrastructure to support two more. Any takers?
Recent Extreme Wind Events. A microburst hit Oacoma this last Sunday (May 8). It flipped over RVs and suspended a woman in mid-air. As crazy as that sounds, that microburst may not have been the strangest wind event of the last two weeks at Oacoma. As this picture shows, there was an extended wind event the last couple days of April and first couple of May.
From all accounts I heard, the prediction above underestimated both the baseline wind and the gusts. But what makes this event so strange is that the wind blew for such an extended period of time. We might get these kinds of winds right during a storm or as a front moves through (or something slightly toned back other times of the year), but this seemed like a highly unusual wind event, perhaps as unusual as the microbursts from Sunday.
And yet, the most extreme wind event we have had in the last year was the cyclonic, maybe tornado-like, event last July 23. I was in Minneapolis at the time when I got a call that the rest of my family had just had made it through another crazy storm, with wind blowing from nearly every direction, taking down many of the cottonwood trees along the Missouri River, severely damaging our produce crops (particularly the sweet corn), and rearranging the outside landscape in other ways, too. One of the small but frustrating casualties for me was the lost symmetry of one of my two sunset trees, the elm trees that show up in so many of our family's photographs of the last few years given their alignment with the summer sunsets in view from our lodge at the farm.
One of the most visible impacts was the uprooting of the biggest, oldest cottonwood tree on the peninsula, the tree that our bald eagle neighbors had been nesting in since I was young. When I later went down to investigate the wind damage of these trees, I was astounded at the size of the tree and the force of the windstorm that could uproot such a massive organism. Luckily, I think the eagles are back again this year, and will hopefully choose a new roost tree in the same stand and build another nest. But we'll have to wait and see. In the mean time, here are a couple pictures (stitched panoramas) of the fallen giant.
Of course, none of these are the first wind storms that Muddy Pumpkin Farms or the Big Muddy have seen, but they are the kind of thing that makes growing food in central South Dakota exciting. Along with the wind comes some very beautiful mornings, days, evenings, and nights: rainbows, sunsets, and lightning storms in the distance. That's all for now... We're hoping we get the inch of rain they're forecasting for tonight and tomorrow since we need the rain. Take care.