Hog Farms and Wind Power Have the Potential to Save Local Farms Thousands in Iowa

 

The top state in the country for producing pork, Iowa produces billions of dollars a year from over 6,000 hog farms. With costs only rising, some farmers are looking for ways to cut down on bills. Combining two of Iowa’s strengths, hog farms and wind power, has the potential to save local farmers thousands of dollars every year by controlling input costs and eliminating electricity bills.

Rob Hach, the owner of Anemometry Specialists with his wife, Tara, started a division of the company called Wind and Solar Specialists, which focuses on developing projects for those interested in renewable energy. They work with the client from start to finish, meeting with farmers and utilities companies, helping with installation, guiding the process and seeing the project to its final steps. “We’ll go out and assess their need and put up a solar or turbine or a hybrid system with utilizing both resources,” said Hach. “Every project is different. We haven’t had an identical project yet. We’ll find out their electrical load, what their tax bill looks like, and we’ll get the right equipment. We really come in and we partner with our customers to make sure they’re getting the right equipment for their project.”

Two of his recent clients, Terry Murray and Arvid Baughman, have both installed Bergey turbines on their farms, receiving state and federal incentives to help build their turbines and erase a long-term cost of running their farms. Murray is a fifth generation Iowa farmer, running a 3,000-head hog farm. Murray is now saving nearly $10,000 a year, while Baughman is saving about $4,000 a year on his 750-hog farm. Murray’s four Bergey turbines have erased his electricity costs for the next 30 years. With land prices, fertilizer and other farm maintenance costs rising, the farmers were looking for a way to cut something out. “They wanted to no longer worry about their electric prices going up, and they wanted to do something about it,” said Hach.

Hach’s experience with renewable energy began when he was a child. In 1977, his father started selling wind turbines, and Hach remembers seeing them sit, temporarily, in the front yard before being transported to a client. In the 1980s, his father began working with larger turbines and following projects all over the nation. The Hach family left their farm in Iowa and traveled to Colorado, Maryland and Illinois before returning to Iowa. There, Hach began learning more about the field, and in 2002, he and Tara started their company. “Growing up, there were always people interested in generating their own electricity. They own it, it’s theirs, and they don’t have to pay for electricity again,” said Hach. “There’s always been an interest. It’s increasing these days, because people are aware of the environment and their surroundings and that they need to be doing something. We have a lot more consumers out there doing their research and understanding what the opportunity is.”

The company, which started with two employees, now boasts 30 people and is looking to expand. They already have a national presence, with projects extending from coast to coast. They are also developing partnerships with companies that provide similar things, in order to provide clients with complimentary services. Because government incentives for building turbines and solar panels are localized, the company looks for areas and clients where incentives are appealing. The incentives help fund projects, and vary from state to state and even region to region. “I like coming to work every day,” said Hach. “You feel good about what you’re doing. You drive by a project that you developed for a customer, and it looks great. You hear how happy they are about the project and it just feels good. It’s a wholesome feeling you have at the end of the day.”

The fight for renewable energy is constant, said Hach, who experiences constant changes in wind and solar energy federal incentives. Other energy resources, such as coal, oil and gas, have fixed incentives and do not face the same struggles. Hach wants to encourage consumers to make the choice to buy renewable energy and renewable fuels. Encouraging the implementation of clean and renewable energy can be done in two ways: “Legislatively by changing laws,  which is slow and has a lot of hurdles,” said Hach, “And going to the store. Your dollars have more impact than your legislatures do. Choose who to buy a product from.”

Providing a demand for clean energy and fuel is the simplest, easiest way to encourage the support of businesses, farms and schools that use renewable energy sources. “They make a choice with their dollars,” said Hach, who selects his own products, such as beer and cell phone suppliers, based on the energy sources the companies use. “Companies such as Google and Microsoft are using more and more renewable energy to power their businesses. When I buy a product, I make sure I buy products from companies that buy their electricity from renewable energy,” said Hach. “We’re really in this together. Renewable energy is about employing people.”

Originally published on DWEA’s website during December 2014.

A 64-year-old Farm Owned by Three Brothers has Recently Added a New Crop: Wind

 

Kevin, Ed and Rich Doody grew up on the dairy farm their parents established in 1949 with 35 cows and fewer than 80 acres. The farm, now home to 350 cows, is 12 miles south of Syracuse, NY, in a small town called Otisco. The brothers’ parents also grew up in the area, going to local churches and schools. Their father, Larry, passed away six years ago, and their mother, Avis, continues to take care of the farm’s accounting. “It’s been in our blood our whole life,” said Ed.

Continuing the tradition, the brothers raised their ten children on the farm. “The kids have all enjoyed the country lifestyle we have out here,” said Ed, who has three children. “It’s not just a job. It’s a lifestyle. It’s a full-time commitment. The cows are here and they have to be taken care of. Someone has to always be there on Sundays. Sometimes a cow has a calf at night. I’m usually on call in the middle of the night when something comes up.”

With the commitment to the lifestyle, the rising costs of maintaining a farm, and the increasing news coverage over the past three years on the limited resources of carbon and oil, the brothers began to consider other options. They have three employees and earn all of their income from the milk that they sell, as well as maintaining 900 acres of corn, alfalfa, barley and hay to feed the cows.

Their research began in the west, learning about the use of turbines in Wisconsin, where farmers used and spoke highly of the Endurance 3120 Turbine that Ed was interested in. Encouraged, Ed attended seminars and found CEC Energy, which installs wind turbines and is a division of Cazenovia Equipment Company. The farm has been a long-time client of Cazenovia, which is a large John Deere subsidiary in New York State. CEC Energy helped the farm with permits, qualifications for federal grants, and calculating the amount of wind the farm would receive.

Living on a hilltop in a windy area has proven ideal to harness a sustainable energy source. The 174-foot-tall Endurance 3120 Turbine, which the farm owns, was installed on September 25, 2012, eighteen months after initial inquiry. It has powered about 240,000 kilowatts since then. Rated at 50 kilowatts, the turbine will run at 60 or 70 kilowatts with a strong wind. It is computer-controlled, can take care of itself and possesses a lot of sensors that safeguard against system faults. “We’re happy with the performance over all. I expect we’ll go year after year with the machine,” said Ed. “None of neighbors are close by enough to be bothered by it, and no one has mentioned it’s unsightly. We don’t get a lot of compliments about it.”

Following the success of the farm’s turbine, all three families decided to lease their own, smaller, 10-kilowatt Bergey turbine to power their homes, bringing their turbine total up to four. Bergey Wind Power is a company in Oklahoma, which has been making turbines for the past 30 years. CEC Energy installed the turbines, which are leased through United Wind, a company founded in 2013 that offers affordable leasing to small wind consumers. Some of the farm’s neighbors have turbine-powered homes, and they are all happy with their experience, said Ed. Ed opted to fully prepay his 20-year turbine lease for $20,000 and expects payback in about five years on his investment. The lease guarantees 16,000 kilowatts per year. The turbines for their home were installed this summer and started generating electricity a few weeks ago. With adding an additional source of electricity, Ed and his wife, Kathy, are especially looking forward to eliminating the extensive chore of chopping firewood for heat. “The large turbine is directly across from our home. There’s no noise or interference and it’s not annoying to listen to,” said Ed. “My wife says it’s like change in your pocket. When it’s running, you make a little money.”

In addition to investing their money, they’re making choices for their future. “We pay a large fuel bill to run our tractors. That’s only going to get higher after time. So are electric bills. It makes good economic sense to us to put up the turbines,” said Ed. “It’s the wave of the future. We can’t be committed to carbon and oil forever.”

Originally published on DWEA’s website during October 2014.

Maine Company a Force for Local Jobs and Sustainable Future

 

Pika Energy operated out of Ben Polito’s basement until one year ago. The company’s roots stretch even further back, with its true beginning in 2010, when Polito, company president, and Joshua Kaufman cofounded the company with support from local Maine investors. Now, Pika employs 10 people and is housed in a small commercial facility in Portland, Maine. Pika began to install turbines in the spring of 2014.

“We built a turbine suitable to power an energy-efficient home and we use the wind in combination with solar panels in a microgrid or hybrid energy system, which give you benefits from both the wind and the solar, to give more even power throughout the year and the day,” said Polito. “It’s important to have a steady flow of power, so the hybrid does a better job than either source by itself could do.”

Pika Energy is part of an even bigger movement revolving around the consumer and energy’s future. Until a few years ago, American manufacturing was viewed as a dying industry. Now, it’s still early, but Pika Energy is part of the change to bring jobs not only back to America, but to rural areas. “It’s still challenging, but people are seeing with the right, high-tech product that requires sophisticated manufacturing and top-quality people doing the work, responsive to the market, domestic-based United States manufacturing is in the early stages of what looks like a rebound,” said Polito.

A perfect fit for Maine

Their dream would not have been possible if Polito and Kaufman had not left their hometowns to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Both grew up in rural farm country, with Polito’s family working a farm on Georgetown Island, off the coast of Maine, and Kaufman’s family cutting wheat and seeing the possibility for wind energy in Kansas.

Returning to Maine to build the company was an obvious choice for several reasons. Wind energy is a rural technology, and Maine is not only a largely rural state, but offers a supportive local network that provides advice and financial help. Additionally, Polito is aware of the lack of quality jobs in Maine for those interested in technology. Pike Energy hopes to continue to grow, bringing people back to Maine who left because of the lack of technology-based opportunities. And, of course, there was the Polito family to consider. Four generations of the Polito family currently call Maine home.

As a child growing up without electricity, Polito built small wind turbines out of old motors and scrap wood. His experiments were a success and he was able to produce a small amount of electricity. “I was excited [to learn] how to make more. I wanted to learn how to build better wind turbines and make better electricity,” said Polito. “We had kerosene lamps for light and a hand pump for water out of the well and an outhouse instead of indoor plumbing, and you can imagine how cold that is in the middle of winter in Maine to go outside to use the outhouse. Electricity was this magical technology that I knew was out there that other people had that we didn’t have because we were so far outside of the beaten path.”

The end product

When electricity is readily available, appreciation is lost. One person, without electricity, would not be able to drive a car, produce heat for a home, or even shop for groceries. Energy multiplies a single person’s strength and ability. Being aware of the value and finding alternative means of providing energy plans for a future when fossil fuels are depleted. “In general, I think it’s one of the greatest challenges our world faces,” said Polito. “We’ve developed a dependency on having ample supply of cheap and readily available energy in order to do most of the things we all love to do, and right now, the vast majority of that energy comes from unsustainable, polluting sources that are increasingly becoming scarce and cause harm to the planet. For anyone who looks at the data, it’s obvious that we needs to transition to more sustainable sources.”

Polito has found that clients love making their own power and taking responsibility for their future. “It’s just fun and rewarding for people to make their own electricit,” he observes. “People feel dependent on a source of power they can’t control, and they worry that it won’t always be there. Making their own electricity from the wind and the sun helps them feel more independent, doing their part and taking control of their energy future.”

Originally published on DWEA’s website during August 2014.