The farming side of ‘blowing in the wind’

Power bills of more than $3,000 a month prompted dairy producer Ed Doody and his brothers to harness some of that “free energy” blowing in off Lake Ontario.

Located near Syracuse, New York, at the top of a hill 1,700 feet above sea level and only 65 kilometres south of Lake Ontario, the Doody dairy farm has seldom seen a truly calm day since his parents established it 66 years ago.

“The lake never freezes, so wind coming off the water has a positive impact because it moderates our temperatures,” Doody said.

“And every time a (weather) front passes over the lake, it picks up a tremendous amount of wind energy.”

The 440-cow dairy uses 200,000 kilowatts a year to run milking equipment, ventilation fans, lights and milk cooling equipment.

These functions are absolutely necessary with no room to cut corners, so if you can’t reduce overall power use, the next best alternative is to generate at least some of your own electricity.

“We installed our first windmill in September 2012,” Doody said.

“It’s an Endurance 50 kilowatt model E3120 turbine. We predicted it would provide about half the power we required. It’s exceeded that mark all three years we’ve had it. We purchased it outright.”

Then in 2013 the brothers heard about United Wind, so they installed three 10 kW turbines, one for each house and all on United Wind lease program.

Doody said the initiative has produced substantial savings.

“At our homes, these little turbines produce far more power than we can use,” he said.

“I used to heat with a combination wood/oil furnace, but we have lots of extra power now, so I produce more than half of our home heat with our own electricity.”

He said he doesn’t like selling power into the grid.

“The utility pays us only four cents per kilowatt, but the retail price when we’re buying power from them is 15 to 16 cents per kilowatt.

“So we sell very, very little into the grid. At the end of the year, I like to get my meter right down to the zero mark. The turbines have cut our electric bill by more than half for the whole farm.

“We decided the United Wind lease arrangement on those three small turbines was very attractive, primarily because they have full responsibility for maintenance. Around here it’s $1,000 a day every time you hire a tall crane, so that’s a really big load off our minds.”

Doody said safety is the other big factor. If it’s a choice between having a farmer climb the tower or having a trained technician climb the tower, the steeple jack wins every time.

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