In summer 2017, James Tinjum, associate professor in engineering professional development and civil and environmental engineering, traveled 1,278 miles across four Midwestern states by bicycle to visit wind energy sites, collect content for his upcoming book, and bring attention to wind energy.
Tinjum’s “bike the wind” journey lasted 18 days in July, taking him past nearly 50 wind energy sites throughout Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota and Iowa. In this educational adventure, he combined his passions for bicycling, sustainability and energy to increase awareness of the possibility of great use of wind energy in Wisconsin and throughout the upper Midwest.
Wisconsin lags behind neighboring states Iowa and Minnesota in wind energy advancements almost by an order of magnitude, so Tinjum focused on increasing awareness in Wisconsin communities of the benefits and limitations of wind energy.
“Increased awareness is the first step to pushing for general acceptance and more favorable development, such that when a developed proposes a new wind energy site people will think, ‘Oh, I know about that from that professor who did Bike the Wind,’” Tinjum says.
Another reason Tinjum “biked the wind” was to collect content for future courses and for his textbook Wind Energy Civil Balance-of-Plant Design, which he will begin writing in fall 2017.
Tinjum considers his trip a success.
“I think I exceeded my goals by far,” he says. “I wasn’t sure in the first couple days of the trip if I was going to make it for the full 1,278 miles, but I did. My bike held up. I visited 48 wind energy sites. I talked to a lot of people and got a lot of exposure for sustainability in wind energy.”
Tinjum said the biggest challenge he faced while biking was the wind. “I guess I should have thought about this, but it’s actually windy at wind energy sites!” he says.
With that in mind, Tinjum challenges the public with a learning opportunity.
“Wait for a day when there’s 10-15 mph winds and try to bike into it for an hour to see how much energy there is in wind,” he says. “If there’s that much energy preventing you from biking, just think of that energy being repurposed in a useful way to create electricity for our country.”