On my recent trip to Colorado, I was surprised to find windmill farms. I knew that they existed in California and in Texas; I did not know that they existed in Colorado.

Windmill farms are used to create electricity. While this method of energy production has been greatly refined, the underlying methodology has existed for a long time.

Wind energy is emerging as an increasing viable source of energy. Of course, it only works in those parts of the country that have a lot of wind. Manhattan is not a good likely source for a windmill farm.

Now it appears that if we power our houses and our businesses with wind-driven energy rather than coal, we can actually save money in addition to saving the environment. In a recent article written in the journal Science, the authors concluded that wind power is not only abundant and clean, but also potentially more cost effective than energy from fossil fuel sources.

Right now only .1 percent of America's electric supply comes from wind energy contrasted with 52% from coal. The authors of that article argue that wind energy is now roughly the same cost per kilowatt-hour as is coal - derived energy. However, they argue if you add the environmental and health impacts associated with relying on coal, wind energy becomes "unequivocally" less expensive than coal energy.

We very recently read about another coal mine collapse which killed about 20 miners. Mining is dangerous and cost intensive. When miners die, there are legal settlements paid to survivors. When they become sick, health costs must be paid. When the coal is burned to generate electricity, the air becomes polluted and nearby residents become ill, which means even more health care dollars must be spent. Wind based energy does not have this kind of baggage.

This notion of adding the health risks and environmental costs associated with coal use is innovative and, I believe, valid. Studies indicate that coal dust kills 2,000 mine workers a year and that taxpayers have paid thirty-five bill dollars in medical benefits to former miners. Since that coal is used generally to produce energy, isn't it fair to add these figures to the cost of producing electricity from coal?

We cannot ignore this information, which demonstrates that coal reliance may cost more than just the costs of labor associated with mining and delivering coal.

The United States Department of Energy operates a laboratory called the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The Solar Energy Resource Development and Demonstration Act Of 1974 established the laboratory, which employs 1,100 staff members including researchers, engineers, and analysts. The 300-acre campus is located in Golden, Colorado.

According to the Department of Energy, wind energy produced three and a half billion kilowatts per hour of electricity last year. The cost of generating electricity from wind has decreased 84% from 1981 to 1990.

The Department of Energy is actively working on introducing wind energy to our current electric supplier utilities. Projects are underway in Iowa, Texas, Vermont, Alaska, Nebraska, and Wisconsin.

Modern windmills are rather interesting devices. They do not look like the classic Dutch windmill, but rather have the appearance of highly mechanized, streamlined tall steel structures with aerodynamic blades. Windmill farms often consist of a number of these modern windmills.

Wind power has been used from the beginning of time to power shops, grind grain and pump water. Windmills were erected in the United States during the late 1800's, most of which were used to pump water for farms and ranches.

Harnessing natural wind for energy production is a very old concept. But, it will likely play an increasingly prominent role in addressing the future energy needs of the United States. It just makes plain cents.

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