Harvesting the Wind
Education Excerpt 2:06 min
Harvesting the Wind
PDF Documentation

Wind is the fastest growing renewable energy resource in the world. Denmark, which gets 20 percent of its electricity from wind, is leading the world right now, but Germany may soon surpass Denmark in that regard. So where does the United States stand when it comes to wind energy? Right now the United States gets less than half of 1 percent of its energy from wind, but at the same time there is enough wind in the United States to provide one and a half times the country's energy demand. Shouldn't more communities be utilizing this clean, renewable energy resource?

In the southwest corner of Minnesota - the Buffalo Ridge region - there is a productive and progressive wind industry that is not only providing clean energy, but also economic opportunity and prosperity to the local community. Communities are often resistant to the construction of wind farms because of the aesthetic effects on the natural environment. In Minnesota this has not been the case because the community itself is building and benefiting from the wind farms. In many cases, an outsider will enter a community with his/her own contractors, build a wind farm and leave, taking most of the financial benefits out of the community. How can this model be changed to ensure that local communities not only support the building of wind farms, but also reap most of the economic benefits?

Dan Juhl, president of Woodstock Wind Farm, will describe the process by which he leased land to create a wind farm in the Buffalo Ridge region of Minnesota. When the landowners noticed the profits that he was earning with his wind turbines, they enlisted his help and expertise to build their own. They installed two wind turbines and became the first farmer-owned commercial wind farm in the state. They certainly weren't the last. Now other farmers have joined forces to share the cost of installation, and within a year they recovered their initial investment. The community wind industry has grown so much in Minnesota in the last 10 years that Suzlon - India's number one blade manufacturer - has opened its first U.S. manufacturing facility in Pipestone, Minnesota, in the heart of Buffalo Ridge. The facility employs over 300 people, a number that will surely continue to grow as the current demand for blades in Minnesota is greater than Suzlon can produce.


1. What were some of the economic effects on rural areas after the Industrial Revolution?
2. What are the benefits of building a business (such as a wind farm) locally versus from outside the community?
3. What percentage of the power in the United States do you think comes from wind energy?

Link to resources to conduct research on these topics.


1. What is a community wind farm? How is it different than any other wind farm?
2. Dan Juhl says that community wind is a "trifecta." What are the three reasons that he thinks this is true? Do you agree? Why or why not?
3. In what ways has the Suzlon blade manufacturing facility benefited the community of Pipestone?
4. If we used all of the wind energy available, what percentage of our energy needs could it power?



Engineering Education
Standard 5.6: Knows renewable and non-renewable sources of energy (e.g., fossil, wind, nuclear, solar)

Standard 5.8: Understands how the use of domestic and commercial power and energy affects the environment

Standard 14.4: Understands how societal interests, economics, ergonomics, and environmental considerations influence a solution

Standard 16.3: Understands the role of research and development in the production of new or improved products, processes, and materials

Standard 17.6: Understands tradeoffs among characteristics such as safety, function, cost, ease of operation, quality of post-purchase support, and environmental impact when selecting systems for specific purposes


Standard 3.2: Knows ways in which social and economic forces influence which technologies will be developed and used (e.g., cultural and personal values, consumer acceptance, patent laws, availability of risk capital, the federal budget, local and national regulations, media attention, economic competition, tax incentives)

Standard 3.3: Knows that alternatives, risks, costs, and benefits must be considered when deciding on proposals to introduce new technologies or to curtail existing ones (e.g., Are there alternative ways to achieve the same ends? Who benefits and who suffers? What are the financial and social costs and who bears them? How serious are the risks and who is in jeopardy? What resources will be needed and where will they come from?)

Harvesting the Wind

Education Excerpt 2:06 min

Harvesting the Wind
PDF Documentation