I am Don Quixote

21

APRIL, 2016

“Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them.” Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

I have heard for the past 18 months about the “good wind” in Kansas, so I figured I needed to investigate this myself. Wind farms have been popping up in the plains as far north as North Dakota and all the way down to Texas, but everyone always talked about that “Kansas wind.” So I drove over to Waverly, Kansas to see EDP’s Waverly Wind Farm.

As I approached the turbines from afar, that quote from Don Quixote echoed in my mind. “I will conquer you” I thought. I did not just drive 6 hours to look at a wind turbine, I wanted to experience this “Kansas wind” firsthand. And the best place I could find it was right in front of me, 305 feet in the sky. But before starting any quest, it’s always best to learn more about your opponent before squaring off with them in battle. Great Plains Energy met me at the wind farm and gave me a full history of how wind is becoming more of a key player in their energy mix. For example, the Southwest Power Pool region of states set an all-time record earlier this month when 48.3% of the region’s energy needs were being met with wind resources. Now granted, that was at 2 AM, but it is still impressive that almost 50% of the energy was being met with one source of renewable energy.

It was time to suit up. Just like Don Quixote, I too had to don my suit of armor –  harnesses, straps, helmets, etc.

Next was the safety briefing, and my wife had already given me one instruction before I left saying “Don’t fall off and die!” That was all the instruction I needed, and I was off.

The Dance:

Just like two boxers in the ring, I approached my foe that was taller, had a longer span, and outweighed me. It sat there towering to the heavens, swaying back and forth, rocking in the wind like a prize fighter moving around the ring.

I circled it twice, getting the lay of the land, watching its movements, studying it, looking for a weakness. With a rebel yell I charged forth and entered the belly of the beast. I looked back at civilization just before I was locked inside to begin my quest, silently bidding a farewell to the outside world.

As the door slammed shut, and the sound echoed loudly in the huge metal tube where I was standing. A cold sweat trickled down my neck as the realization of the moment hit me…there is no elevator and there are no stairs…just a ladder. A really tall, really big, giant ladder.

There I was, in the belly of the beast, the wind loudly howling outside, almost beckoning me to quit. But I calmed my racing heart and I could hear the words of the Man from Lamancha whispering on the wind “The wounds received in battle bestow honor, they do not take it away.”

So I climbed. And I climbed.

And I climbed. And then I climbed some more.

And at last I was there, 305 feet in the air. The only thing separating me from standing on top of the wind turbine and turning to face the 40mph winds and declare victory were a gaggle of lawyers back on the ground saying it was too windy to go out on top. “Lawyers be damned” I thought and through skillful negotiations and stubbornness, the outer hatch was opened and through it I emerged.

I had planned to dance the jig and scream face first to the wind that I had conquered the giant, but in that moment, tired from the climb, all thoughts emptied from my mind and I reached a moment of singular clarity. Air blew around me with such force as to envelope my entire body in its strength. On top of that wind turbine, hundreds of feet above ground, I felt firsthand, the might of Kansas wind.

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