BUTTE, MT - We live in a funky place and time, in regards to the rest of human history. Technological advancements no one can keep up with, a landscape—natural and artificial—shapeshifting right under our noses, and innovation in almost every sector that would make Henry Ford proud. Energy usage, a hot topic here in Montana, has been on the upward trend towards renewability across the U.S. for the past few years now. With this in mind, did you know that Montana ranks in the top 5 for wind energy potential here in the U.S.?

That's right, Montana is 5th in the U.S. for wind energy potential. That's great news for our future generations who live here in the 4th largest state. However, engineers and those interested in the general public alike are perplexed. Though he have the fifth highest potential for the renewable energy source, our renewable energy usage may just blow you away.

Can you guess where we're ranked for installed wind energy capacity? Not 10th, not even in the top 20: Montana is ranked 24th in installed wind energy capacity. That's pretty embarrassing for a state ranked 5th in potential. The question becomes: Why? Why is the Treasure State dragging its feet when our nation's neighbors are crushing the competition?

Let's look at Iowa for example. Iowa generates more than 40% of its electricity from installed wind energy sources, leading the nation in wind energy production. Texas, number one on the top 5 list for wind energy potential, boasts wind farms as far as the eye can see along their desolate landscape. Even Oklahoma is contributing a substantial amount to the wind energy market.

So, why is Montana hesitating? The reasons are, as always, very complex and political. Regulation hurdles, challenges with our infrastructure, and our history with fossil fuels—which Butte knows all too well—are the leading blockades. It's also an extremely costly endeavor, with our sparse populations across an incredibly vast land mass; building the necessary transmission lines would be astronomical. Plus, Montana's policies make it hard for investors to see the potential and the benefits they'd reap.

It's easy for one to imagine the immense amount of opportunity for a wind energy conversion project. Experts say we easily have the potential to be number one in the U.S. for wind energy utilization, even emerging as a leader in the field (no pun intended). Not only would we lead the rest of the nation in this borderline-necessary transition, but we would be creating a notable amount of jobs, protecting our landscapes from further excavation, and contributing to the nation's energy independence.

In the end, as the debate continues to fly through the wind, Montana has the opportunity to make immense change, sitting on the precipice of a game-changing decision. I can't help but doubt that Montana will never change its fossil fuels ways, but the longer we wait, the more we all lose out on striking the gold flying all around us.

I mean, heck, just throw one wind farm up in Livingston: with the wind they get there, they could probably power the entire state.

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