morris mn - We're a community on the grand, seemingly endless prairie of the Upper Midwest. Empty, you might say? It's the epitome of richness, both in the overall environment and the hardy souls who populate. Morris is home to the University of Minnesota-Morris, a small public liberal arts college of distinction.
History-making music group for UMM - morris mn
The UMM men's chorus opened the Minnesota Day program at the 1962 Seattle World's Fair (Century 21 Exposition).
Saturday, September 1, 2012
Our wind turbines have trumped grain elevators
Look at the wind turbines across Lake Crissey. (B.W. photo)
I recall writing an essay in high school that described grain elevators as "the sole sentinels of civilization" out here.
I'm stretching the definition of "sentinel." In a symbolic way, the biggest objects along the skyline might be said to be guardians.
How about farm silos? The old windmills stood out somewhat also.
My use of the word "civilization" gave my essay a condescending tone. As if there were so little other evidence of advancement in the countryside.
I was just a kid of course. I also wrote about my progress as a trumpet player as "pyrotechnics." One cannot help but get attention playing the trumpet. Presumably it shouldn't have an explosive quality. It can grate on you when not performed with the proper sophistication. The bagpipes are brethren. So penetrating are these sounds, bagpipes were at the head of British infantry units. We saw this in the movie about Andrew Jackson starring Charlton Heston.
"Are they gonna fight or are they gonna dance?" a member of Jackson's ragtag army said.
That battle was waged long after a peace accord was reached, but word hadn't been relayed yet. New Orleans was in quite the remote place.
The real story of the battle of New Orleans is quite grim, more so than the typical military engagement. Jackson pulled out all stops. The methods might be seen as inhumane. The movie got much color out of Jackson's forces joining hands with pirates. Jackson struck a deal to get essential supplies from the pirates. I feel the movie is a candidate for a re-make.
Grain elevators are definitely hand in hand with "country." They are prominent on the skyline in many places. But in Morris we have the "whopper" of skyline features. Our two wind turbines looked never so majestic as when they were in the background for the Irondale marching band's performance.
There was a fair crowd for this but it's too bad it wasn't larger. Many of the people seemed to be here from Irondale. It's wonderful to see all these visitors. I hope they all remembered to wear their seat belts. Flyers were posted around town promoting this rehearsal event. It was a rehearsal but also a performance. The public was invited to an evening session that was instructive on how a top-flight marching band operates today. The student musicians were spread out on the Big Cat Stadium field. I found it refreshing to watch something other than football there.
Standing at the top of the bleachers, I found the whole panorama in front of me awe-inspiring. The Pomme de Terre River valley itself is an aesthetic delight. Big Cat Stadium is a classy place. The vivid green artificial turf adds to the picture. And there in the background we have the two giant turbines.
These kids from the suburban Twin Cities wouldn't be treated to any better visual treats where they came from. Maybe that's why I felt a special tinge of pride. We wouldn't have to rely on grain elevators to get their attention. Or silos or the windmills of days past.
Maybe the Jack Lesmeister "observation tower" (a converted old silo) would rate. But clearly at the top of the list in terms of iconic features here, are the twin turbines. Kids here have probably come to take them for granted. It's possible their heads don't turn too often when in close proximity. I always gaze. They are truly our symbol.
For a long time there was just one turbine. And then it got a mate. I'll never forget that the formal dedication for the second turbine was on the same weekend as the CenterPoint Energy adventure. Remember that? CenterPoint Energy went door to door to fix the disaster reportedly caused by a farmer's snafu.
The turbines certainly aren't there just to inspire awe. They allow UMM to collect 70 percent of the energy it needs by wind. They have given UMM special standing in the field of renewable energy.
The two 1.65 megawatt turbines are on some high ground near the Pomme de Terre River. It's a short bike ride from the UMM campus. Cars and trucks whiz along the bypass in between the turbines and the campus. A popular bike trail weaves out toward the turbines.
The trail passes just under the WCROC horticulture garden overlook. The hill is steep if you want to get up to visit the overlook and garden. I usually park my bike at the base and walk up. I'd consider it next to impossible to actually pedal up that hill. You can hear the turbines from the overlook - the steady "swishes." I hope there aren't many bird casualties but I've never heard a report about this.
I enjoy making note of the birds around here. For some reason the meadowlark has left us.
Wind of course is notoriously erratic out here. When in its full splendor, our prairie wind enables the two turbines to provide more than the 70 percent of campus energy I cited earlier. Never underestimate a prairie wind. So strong can it be, "splendor" might not be the word you'd wish to use. You might utter a bad word when the wind rips the storm door off your house. But our most powerful winds have energy (and thus economy) dividends.
Buoyed by wind, the turbines can supply as much as 100 percent of campus electricity! For the record, the turbines produce electricity at wind speeds as low as 7.8 miles per hour, and maximum electricity at wind speeds of 29 miles per hour. They also power the WCROC's wind-to-hydrogen-to-ammonia pilot plant. Wow! No one would have dreamt of this along the old Wadsworth Trail of the 19th Century.
The Irondale musicians saw our towers standing 230 feet over the prairie. Each blade reaches an additional 135 feet into the sky.
Our twin turbines are billed as the showpiece of the WCROC renewable energy department. They are truly "public art" as well, right in league with the Sam Smith statue of Summit Cemetery.
The Pomme de Terre River is our "old man river." It flows with such irresistible and timeless force, joining hands with the Minnesota River which eventually pours into the Mississippi. We can assume the water runs continually all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.
The same irresistible force, that of wind, ensures that the twin turbines will stay busy almost constantly. What a sight and what an attribute for the Morris community. Surely the Irondale musicians will always remember them.
Grain elevators serve their purpose just fine. I wouldn't write condescendingly today. Maybe condescension comes from insecurity. The kind of imagery conjured up by "Hee Haw" is empty entertainment. It was supposed to be anti-intellectual. But, no need to be so analytical.
Small is good and country is good! But we have our share of "big" too, thanks to the grand wind turbines.