Visiting the Rail Splitter Wind Farm

Since wind farms first started appearing across the Illinois landscape, I've been fascinated by the giant white turbines—with the way they look like giant white children's toys thrown haphazardly across the landscape, with the mesmerizing way their arms spin and spin and spin, with the fact that they sit there generating energy.

So I decided to do some research on wind farms in general, and the 11,000-acre Rail Splitter Wind Farm located just down the road from L-Town in particular, for an article for one of my master's classes.

In the process, I waded through a whole lot of numbers and hard facts on wind energy and the amount generated by the Rail Splitter Wind Farm. I read research on possible health effects of living close to the turbines. And I spoke to some incredibly passionate locals—some of whom are all for the wind farm and the benefits it brings to the county and the state, others who are adamantly opposed to the turbines and wish the darn things would just go away.

And I even got to spend some time at the wind farm, standing under one of the turbines, on an incredibly windy day no less.

And guess who forgot her camera?

Fortunately, my cell phone takes reasonable photos, so I can at least share with you a few snapshots of my up-close encounter.

Even standing beneath one of the 230-foot-tall white behemoths, there's only a faint whoosh, whoosh, whoosh from above, where three 125-foot blades spin steadily.

The equipment inside the tower produces a mechanical buzz that overpowers the whoosh of the blades.

Some homeowners say that the sound of the turbines don't bother them in the least; on many of the farms in this area, it's just another part of a busy day's background noise. Others find the sound too loud, too irritating.

As I worked on the article, I started to wonder: It's one thing to spend a couple of minutes standing beneath one of the white giants. But would I feel the same if I lived in the shadow of one—or 20 or more?

Still, the fact that these giant machines capture something we normally have little use for—wind—and transform it into energy to light our houses and run our businesses is nothing short of amazing. Plus the wind farm benefits many local farmers—who earn money from having the turbines on their land even as they continue planting crops around them—as well as Lincoln and Tazewell counties, which receive tax money for every turbine.

And regardless of whether you think these wind farms are a win-win situation or a nuisance, they are pretty darn mesmerizing, aren't they?

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