The Wind and the West
WHEREAS COAL BOOMED in the cities, in the arid West, energy wasn’t really the limiting factor. What mattered—and still matters—in what was once known as the Great American Desert is water. As steam power scaled up the Middle Western cities, windmills, built and maintained by entrepreneurs and settlers, removed a key barrier to settling the country’s interior.
With a windmill, a family could move to a place where less than twenty inches of rain fell per year so the land was cheap. With some luck and hard work improving the land, perhaps they could sell that farm and buy a nicer one, moving up a notch in the social hierarchy and securing a more permanent existence.
That was the promise of the West, “the frontier!”—as ...