Shirley (Wind Farm), You Can’t Be Serious

Original blog entry date: July 18, 2017

It’s day three of my three-week bike trip. Today was a beautiful day with the perfect biking weather of low winds, sunny skies, and moderate temperatures in the ’70s. Ninety-two miles of biking feels one heck of a lot better when you don’t have to fight a headwind all day. I only hope to have more days like this for the remainder of my trip!

I’m at the beginning of a 1,250-mile trip across four Midwestern states — entirely by bike. You might be wondering, “Why would anyone do something like that to themselves?!” Because I want to raise awareness about wind energy in a sustainable way (not to mention I love biking for the fun of it). My route is taking me past more than 50 wind energy sites in Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota and Iowa.

My plan is to bike 75 miles a day to complete 1,250 miles in approximately three weeks, but today I had a 92-mile route. Seventy-five miles (or 92 for that matter) isn’t too bad. After all, preparing for my journey I biked more than 300 miles a week. When I’m not training for a trip like this, I still bike to everything, usually totaling 50-100 miles in a regular week.

So, in 92 miles today, I biked from Chilton to Shawano, WI. I passed just one wind farm today, Shirley Wind Farm near Green Bay, but I usually pass multiple in a day during my trip. Shirley consists of eight Nordex N100 turbines rated at 2.5 MW apiece. These turbines are the largest in Wisconsin, in both capacity and height. The towers are 100-meters high (about 330 feet) and the blades are each 50-meters long (about 165 feet). 

Evidently not everyone in the vicinity of the Shirley Wind Farm is enthusiastic about wind energy based on the signs I saw and reports of pasts complaints. Shirley, you can’t be serious?! There is a lot of misinformation about wind turbines out there, which is part of the reason why I’m writing my book, Wind Energy Civil Balance-of-Plant Design, to help clear up these misconceptions.

While in the Green Bay area today, I met Mark and Doreen, a wonderful couple who invited me to their home for refreshments and to talk about wind energy. This is another reason why I’m doing this trip, to speak with communities about their views on wind energy. I’m really interested to hear people’s perspectives throughout the different states I pass, especially because Wisconsin is well behind the capabilities of wind energy compared to its neighbors. Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan — they all have capacity ranging from slightly higher to an order of magnitude higher than us. It will be fascinating to hear how people’s opinions change in different states.

You can keep up with my journey on my daily blog,, where I post photos, trip progress and facts about wind energy. Updates are also posted on (University of Wisconsin-Madison Engineering Professional Development), Instagram (UW_Madison_EPD), and Twitter (UWEPD), or with the hashtag #bikethewind.

Based on Jim’s original “Day 3 – Shirley (Wind Farm), You Can’t Be Serious” blog post.

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James Tinjum, Ph.D., is an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Department of Engineering Professional Development.

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