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Farm invests for year-round renewable energy

By Staff | Dec 7, 2013

Ron Hatch

DOW CITY – A wind turbine for the winter and solar panels for the summer is the big news on the Dan and Scott Head farm in rural Dow City.

Retired farmer Dan Head greeted early arrivals on Nov. 19 for a celebration of the two new systems in operation, on the farm managed by his son, Scott Head.

“I’ve always wanted to be as energy independent as possible,” Dan Head said, adding that he spent many hours researching the benefits of wind energy systems before making his investment in the turbine that overlooks his Crawford County farm and solar panels that gather sun energy.

Head said he anticipates the system will ease considerably what is now an overall estimated farm energy usage cost of “between $300 and $600” monthly for the farm’s current cattle operation and the home electrical needs.

The Heads purchased the turbine from Wind and Solar Specialists, of Alta, and hosted for the November ribbon cutting. Scott Head said he was glad for what he termed his father’s ongoing curiosity about the feasibility of the project.

Dan Head

With a potential payback of seven to 10 years, the combined benefits of the turbine and solar panel system, he said, will be beneficial in lowering his energy costs that cut into the profit line of his 50- to 100-head bred cow operation.

The electricity they generate is sold to the Harrison County Rural Electric Cooperative and then deducted from the farm’s power bill determined by the net value of usage versus wind and solar production.

The new renewable energy systems will operate two automated farm wells, the calving barn and machine shed. Not to be overlooked, Scott Head suggested they might also occasionally warm up his tractor.

The water supply will be from a combined two-well system allowing water to be pumped from either a 50-year-old well which dried up last summer and a newly dug well. They are wired together to provide automatic use of either system in the event of possible future water problems.

As a foursome of Rob Hatch, president of Wind and Solar Energy; his daughter, Madison Hatch; Scotty Price, the company’s development director; and Dan Head prepared for the ribbon-cutting over head, the turbine was harvesting the gusty winds and was anticipated to generate 106 killowatts that day.

Scotty Price

The Heads’ hybrid wind and solar units’ rated 40.6 kilowatt system, Price said, is capable of producing 57,000 kilowatts hours per year.

Hatch estimates approximately a third of the energy will come from the turbine with the remaining two thirds from the two solar units.

New developments in the wind/solar segment of the renewable energy picture are currently “very promising” Hatch said. “In talking with people we see more and more (farmers) interested in wind and solar combinations as new companies develop and they see what this renewable source can do in their operations.

“It’s evident that one size or type of wind and/or solar source doesn’t fit all farming operations and that farmers must consider what is best depending on their respective farming programs and kilowatt needs.”

He advised researching the grants and/or cash credits available to help offset costs of initiating the systems.

“Here in Iowa, the hybrids show the production curve for wind energy highest in the winter,” Hatch said, “with production from the solar systems highest in the summer. The two systems compliment each other quite well.”

A consideration, Hatch said, for farmers looking at generating their own electricity is that “wind and solar energy is good for Iowa and all rural America.

“It’s good in that the systems not only reduce energy costs, but also help to create the extra jobs that can help sustain rural Iowa and American communities.”

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