‘Wind-wind’ situation [UPDATED]Published 11:14am Monday, November 19, 2012 Updated 2:23pm Monday, November 19, 2012
When the first settlers moved to the upper Midwest, just about everyone had a turbine of some sort, and one company expects turbines to soon become the norm again in Otter Tail County.
Instead of using wind to directly power saw mills and farm equipment, turbines can now efficiently generate enough electricity to power schools, farms or businesses with a 100 percent return on investment rate of about eight years, said Renewable Energy SD President Shawn Dooling.
The business is based out of Excelsior, but Dooling said he plans to spend a lot of time focusing on Otter Tail County and the surrounding areas.
“We have done studies, and the terrain is very suitable for what we do,” he said. “This is one of the hottest areas in the state.”
Renewable Energy SD has only been around for three years, and already, it has 170 projects in development, Dooling said.
Local residents showed interest in wind energy Thursday when more than 40 attended a Renewable Energy SD seminar in Fergus Falls.
Fourth generation Otter Tail County farmer Scott Sibert was one of the first in Otter Tail County to get a turbine up and running through the business, and he said he loves it.
Not only is his 160-foot, 39.9 kilowatt turbine generating enough electricity to power two houses and farm equipment, he is getting monthly checks back from the power company at retail rate for putting excess electricity on the grid. Other benefits include federal and state subsidies.
Sibert and his brother Duane farm on two yards with the assistance of brother Brett and their mother Luana. They have been so satisfied with their first turbine that they have decided to get another one for their second yard. If all goes as planned, the second turbine will power a house, dairy farm and more equipment by the end of the year, Sibert said.
“We would like our farm to stay viable, and this is a way we can stay here and generate some income,” he said. “It’s a win, win for all of us.”
It goes without saying that a wind turbine needs wind in order to work, and concern is often raised at first about down time due to lack of wind, Dooling said.
Sibert’s turbine only needs a 4-mile-per-hour wind at 160 feet to turn, and he said it’s very rare to see it sitting still.
Turbines can allow private owners the opportunity to take control of their own energy, and Dooling said energy independence is the reason many are taking advantage of this opportunity.
“Electricity is something you’ll never get away from, and you will always need it,” he said. “A lot of people look at it as a hedge against retail cost. You’re not subject to rate increases.”
Both Sibert and Dooling expect wind turbines to soon be the norm once again for many in the area.
“We’re on the beginning end of this, and I’d like to see one in every farmyard,” said Sibert. “It’s like my great grandfather’s wind turbine all grown up.”