Cover

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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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pp. 4-4

Copyright Page

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pp. 5-7

Contents

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pp. vii-9

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Preface

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pp. ix-xii

This book tells the story of my travels to various sites of electrical power production across the United States. The trips were made between spring 2008 and spring 2010, with Laramie, Wyoming, serving as my home port. Expedition bulletins that start each chapter acclimate fellow travelers to conditions there. In Wyoming there exists almost...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xiii-xiv

This material is based in part upon work supported by the University of Wyoming School of Energy Resources through its Matching Grant Fund Program. It was also supported in part by funding from the Wyoming Arts Council and the University of Wyoming Department of English. Thanks to those who made valuable suggestions to help make this book worth the...

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Introduction

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pp. xv-xx

“Good luck in the English Dept. Hope this isn’t too confusing.” With these words, a staff member at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (eia) correctly pegged me as a have-not in the world of technical knowledge. I’d e-mailed her for help interpreting some data on the eia website. The data was about electricity consumption versus production, and I was admittedly...

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1. Of Megawatts and Meadowlarks: A Wyoming Wind Farm

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pp. 1-23

The Brees reporting station at the Laramie Regional Airport registers 32 degrees Fahrenheit, with steady twenty-five-mileper- hour winds, gusting to thirty-five. The airport sits at an elevation of 7,266 feet. About seven miles east, my home sits on one of the highest...

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2. Angels and Monsters: A Wyoming Coal-Fired Power Plant

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pp. 24-48

A chilly, windy start to February in Laramie. The low overnight was in the high teens. The National Weather Service predicts a high today in the mid-30s, with average sustained wind speeds around twenty miles per hour and no precipitation. All things considered, not...

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3. Fission and Fishing: A Nebraska Nuclear Power Plant

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pp. 49-73

The University of Wyoming is in its final week of classes for the spring semester. A big discussion in our local newspaper, the Daily Boomerang, has to do with the annual “Tour de Laramie.” That’s the occasion when graduating seniors ride their bikes from bar to bar in downtown Laramie for libations. In their view, bicycling...

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4. Solids, Liquids, and Gases: A Texas Gas Field

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pp. 74-98

For each of my birthdays that I can recall, which is about forty-five of the present fifty, cold wet rain has been the order of the day. Anyone who doubts me might think back to what they were doing on Memorial Day weekend this year. Or the years before that. Were you camping, huddled in a tent hoping you could get out long...

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5. Homegrown Revolution: An Iowa Biomass Research Facility

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pp. 99-122

The high temperature today was a relaxing 81 degrees, with a blanket-cuddling low of 49. This is peak summer in Laramie, with July bringing the warmest weather, the most robust afternoon thunderstorms, and the splashiest sunsets. With this nice weather, we put everything we have into Independence Day celebrations, when...

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6. Journey a Little Way into the Earth: A Utah Geothermal Plant

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pp. 123-142

In what has become an unnerving trend, August started out chilly in Laramie. The high on this day was 56 degrees, with rain, and the low was 39. I call this a trend because most months this summer have not only started cool but remained cool. I call it unnerving because with a summer like this, who needs winter? I’m not one...

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7. Water, Water, Everywhere: A Kentucky Hydropower Plant

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pp. 143-165

Just a few days back from my September swing through the Southwest, I had hopped into the nineteen-seat “Vomit Comet” in Laramie to catch a connecting flight out of Denver. From there I flew to Little Rock, Arkansas, where I rented a little red sport sedan that looked racier than it really was. By the time I was cruising...

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8. Don’t Let the Sun Go Down . . . without Capturing Its Energy:A Nevada Solar-Thermal Power Plant

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pp. 166-187

It was 39 degrees in Laramie today, several degrees warmer than the average for this time of year. With a low of 29, also higher than average, and only a light breeze, it felt like spring in the high country. I was headed home after a trip to some of the vowel states of the Midwest: Iowa, Indiana, Illinois. I’d paused for a few days in...

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9. Harnessing the Moon: A Maine Tidal Power Project

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pp. 188-211

The high of 37 in Laramie on this Tuesday, and the low of 11, was a gift for this time of year. Except we knew what was coming. Our low on Tuesday night would be Wednesday’s high, and the low Wednesday night would crater to minus 16 degrees. We’d have time to recover...

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Afterword

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pp. 212-235

In the course of my travels along the power line, I happened upon something I hadn’t realized I was looking for. I discovered a town in eastern Iowa on the banks of the Mississippi that 2,300 people already had claimed as home. There I found a 130-year-old Victorian house, in good condition but in need of restoration sooner ...

A Note on Sources

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pp. 213-216