Feeding The Grid

There are several proposed solar and wind farms in the WNIJ listening area as well as an established nuclear power plant. This series will outline the types of large-scale energy options available and the pros and cons of each as it pertains to the quality of life in northern Illinois. We’ll also explore the evolving nature of energy infrastructure and consumer level options. (Stories will post on the day they air)

Photo by Victoria Lunacek

In Oregon, Illinois, an old farmhouse just outside of town is a hotbed of alternative energy. It's primarily heated by wood and they have a wind generator, although it’s mainly used for educational purposes.

Keep exploring and you’ll find a solar panel array sitting on the roof of a barn in front of the house, and a newer set on the other side of the yard with a small pasture nestled in the middle, usually home to a few animals.

Victoria Lunacek/WNIJ

Nuclear energy has a significant presence in Illinois, with 11 reactors spread across six plants. Together, they provide about 11.8 gigawatts of power to the entire state. That's enough for millions of homes -- or, as any "Back to the Future" fan knows, almost ten DeLorean time machines.

Peter Medlin

Solar power has been used here and there in Illinois for a long time. But now the state is going for it in a big way. 

In the 19th Century, scientists discovered that you could generate electricity directly from sunlight when you arrange certain elements in a particular way. In the 1950s, scientists at Bell Labs took an element they were using to develop the first transistors – silicon – to create the photovoltaic, or PV, cells that we know today. 

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Illinois is only seven years away from its deadline for getting 25% of the state’s energy from renewable sources. Wind power will have to play a big part to reach that ambitious goal. The state ranks 6th in the nation for the number of wind turbines, at more than 2,600. These wind farms are generally located in rural areas, many on active farms where people are raising corn and soybeans. The wind becomes a third crop that can be “harvested” year-round, giving the farmer a steady rental income.

What Is Feeding The Grid?

Sep 17, 2018
Carl Nelson/Spencer Tritt

Wind, solar, and nuclear are some of the energy options available to Illinois consumers. This week on Morning Edition, the WNIJ news team explores how these affect the quality of life in northern Illinois in 2018 and beyond.

Wind: The "Third Crop"

Wind is sometimes called the "third crop" by farmers.

Reporter Susan Stephens has been following the development of wind farms in northern Illinois. She says the term is used because so often the turbines are placed on farms.