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Monday, May 2, 2016

Putting wind energy to use on the farm

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Saving Energy is for the birds? You bet! - These wind turbines were recently installed near turkey houses at Russ and Beth Winterhof's farm. Photo contributed.
Unless you have been out of the area for the last few years, you have no doubt noticed that the landscape in rural Northwest Iowa has begun to resemble that of the Netherlands. By that, of course, I mean the proliferation of windmills that now dot the area. Except, unlike the old fashioned windmill, these modern-day "windmills" are, of course, wind TURBINES, which generate electricity.

A wind turbine converts the kinetic energy in wind into mechanical energy. If the mechanical energy is used directly by machinery, such as a pump or grinding stones, the machine is usually called a windmill. If the mechanical energy is converted to electricity, the machine is called a wind generator, or more commonly a wind turbine (wind energy converter WEC).

Most of the turbines we see are huge and are owned by utility companies. Many area farmers, with no investment on their part, typically receive $3,000--5,000 per year in royalties from the utility for allowing them to place the large, advanced-design wind turbines, which occupy approximately a quarter-acre, on their land.

In the past, the U.S. wind industry relied largely on imported components; however, there has been a shift towards domestic manufacturing that is likely to continue. Since 2005, many turbine manufacturing leaders have opened U.S. facilities.

As of April 2009, over 100 companies are producing components for wind turbines, employing thousands of workers in the manufacture of parts as varied as towers, composite blades, bearings and gears. Many existing companies in traditional manufacturing states have retooled to enter the wind industry. Their manufacturing facilities are spread across 40 states, employing workers from the Southeast to the Steel Belt, to the Great Plains and on to the Pacific Northwest.

Plans for 30 new manufacturing facilities were announced in 2008, and the wind industry expects to see a continued shift towards domestic manufacturing in the coming years. In total, 70 manufacturing facilities have begun production, been expanded, or announced since January 2007.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will work with six leading wind turbine manufacturers over the next 2 years towards a goal of achieving 20% wind power in the United States by 2030. The DOE announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with GE Energy, Siemens Power Generation, Vestas Wind Systems, Clipper Windpower, Suzlon Energy, and Gamesa Corporation. Under the MOU, the DOE and the six manufacturers will collaborate to gather and exchange information relating to five major areas: research and development related to turbine reliability and operability; siting strategies for wind power facilities; standards development for turbine certification and universal interconnection of wind turbines; manufacturing advances in design, process automation, and fabrication techniques; and workforce development.

There is competition for wind farms, not only among farmers in states like Iowa, but also among ranchers in states such as Colorado.

Russ and Beth Winterhof live south of Aurelia on Y Avenue. They have raised both crops and livestock over the course of their marriage, and a few years ago, added the production of turkeys to the mix. They now raise 110,000 turkeys in several turkey houses, under a contract with Sara Lee Foods.

Beth Winterhof says, "Russ and I have been interested in wind power for decades, but in the last year or so, I found some information online that led to some serious research. We were looking for smaller generators that could handle the amount of energy that we consume in the turkey buildings and the farm in general. We proceeded to locate information about Halus Power from online research. Since we raise turkeys for Sara Lee, we needed to make sure that they would be okay with getting the power source from the turbines, and they were very enthusiastic about the project."

"We committed to buy two 100 KW turbines from Halus Power," says Beth, and the couple even went to meet Louis Rigaud (the owner of Halus) in the San Francisco Bay area wheen we were in Berkeley, Cal. for their son Nathan's graduation from Lutheran Seminary.

Halus Power buys used Vestas generators - primarily from Denmark and Germany, when they are replaced by newer, larger generators. (Ed. note: interesting, as Russ' family origins are in Germany and Beth's in Denmark). The geneartors are then shipped to Oakland and then trucked to Hayward (Cal.), where Halus remanufactures the smaller turbines to be used by people and industries who have smaller energy needs, like the Winterhofs.

Halus trucked the two turbines to the Winterhof farm on two semi trailers. Russ Winterhof, Burton Tate, David Tate, and Philip Winterhof then assembled the sections of the towers and fastened the blades to the hubs.

On Tuesday, September 1, 2009, the turbines were erected - "the culmination of months of planning and loads of cooperation among the Winterhofs, Sara Lee, Iowa Lakes Electric, Hatch Construction, the USDA, Bargloff's and Raveling Crane, the electricians, and Louis Rigaud and his company, Halus Power," said Beth Winterhof.

The Winterhofs have three sons - Nathan 29, now lives in California; Ehren 28, is in Minnetonka, Minn., and Philip 20, lives at home and helps with the family farm operation. Beth, the daughter of Anna and the late Dr. Richard Berge of Aurelia, is trained as a Registered Nurse, and still does some occasional nursing work.

The couple held an Open House at the Winterhof farm yesterday (Sept. 16) to display their new turbines and answer questions. Beth Winterhof feels the new turbines will produce more efficient energy for their turkeys to live, grow, and do their thing, which would subsequently lead to a better product for Sara Lee. She calls it a "Wind Win" situation.

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