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Want to build a wind turbine?

By Staff | Apr 3, 2009

Rick Oleson, vice president of operations and engineering for Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative, based in Lake Park, told Thursday’s audience in Pocahontas that because northern Iowa is well-suited for wind generation, the co-op is preparing to work with future private, small turbine developments.

POCAHONTAS – Nearly three dozen people from throughout north central Iowa, many of whom are considering financing their own alternative renewable energy sources for their homes or businesses, attended a workshop Thursday to determine if their projects are feasible.

The audience was a mix of those who work in the electricity generating industry, Iowa State University Extension personnel, those interested in selling alternative energy equipment, and several seeking information on installing their own turbines or solar photovoltaic systems.

”Unfortunately, it’s not for everybody,” said Thomas Hurd, of Spatial Designs of Mason City, discussing wind generation. He said only about 5 percent of his clients discover that a private wind turbine is economically feasible for their situations. ”But I think in the future, this will change as the cost of electricity goes up.”

He summed up the three-hour meeting as a chance to ”show people that the process doesn’t have to appear scary. The upfront costs are high, but they can make it work if they can control their long-term costs.”

He added that the current national debate of selling carbon credits to large energy users might also make renewable energy generation feasible for private citizens.

The event started with Bill Haman, the alternate energy revolving loan program manager for the Iowa Energy Center, who walked the audience through a basic discussion of how wind turbines work, how to determine if a site for a turbine is an adequate location, resources for calculating costs, sources for grants, low-interest loans and tax incentives.

Hurd outlined the economics of renewable energy systems, especially wind generation.

Paul Rekow, a private turbine operator from the Spencer area, discussed the rewards and challenges of building a small turbine. He also incorporates solar-generated energy.

”In one year I used 8,000 kilowatt hours from the (Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative) grid and I put onto the grid 8,400 kwh. So I’m a negative grid user and I like that.”

Rekow opted to hook up to ILEC’s grid system because the utility accepted, and credited to his account, all of his excess kilowatts. During times when his turbine wasn’t generating power, Rekow’s household drew on the kilowatts credits.

Rick Oleson, vice president of operations and engineering for ILEC, wrapped up the afternoon with a discussion about the utility’s role in the overall renewable energy industry.

Oleson said that because north central Iowa is a key location for wind energy, the utility is positioning itself to assist private homeowners and small businesses and farming operations with creating their own renewable energy sources. The utility has two small wind farms, one in Dickinson County and the other in Kossuth County.

Carolyn Ashbaugh drove from rural Sac City. An instructor of environmental sciences at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Ashbaugh said the workshop gave her more insight to share with her students.

”I’m interested in a (small) turbine for possibly running grain dryers,” she said, adding that her home needs a new roof and she’s interested in the financing available to help defray the cost of installing solar photovoltaic panels, creating electric energy to power her house.

Contact Larry Kershner at (515) 573-2141, ext. 453, or by e-mail at kersh@farm-news.com.

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