AMES, Iowa -- In today’s tough economic times, farmers want to make every dollar count. Using a renewable resource such as wind energy can be both environmentally and financially responsible. Two southeast Iowa pork producers are making wind energy work for them.
Andy McCall of West Chester has a 7200-head wean to finish contract hog operation and Wayne Zieser of Washington operates a 4400-head contract finish operation. Both operations have a Vestas E-15 model wind turbine with a 35 kilowatt generator which produces about 60,000 to 70,000 kilowatt-hours annually.
Both farmers bought their turbines from Energy Maintenance Services (EMS) in South Dakota. EMS purchased them from a wind farm in California and refurbished and sold them to farmers like McCall and Zieser.
“In the windy months, we will produce more energy than we need, and when that happens the excess is banked which is called net metering,” Zieser said. “In months we don’t produce enough we can use the banked energy.”
Zieser said he thinks it’s more efficient to use net metering than a pay as you go method.
“The power companies that want to settle up with cash at the end of the month will pay you wholesale for what you produce and then charge you retail for what you buy from them,” he said. “Net metering helps to maintain our cash flow.”
Both farmers said using a wind turbine is a great way to offset some of their electric bills and reduce the power needed from their electricity supplier, Alliant Energy. Zieser installed his turbine in June of 2007 and said it has considerably reduced the amount of energy needed from Alliant Energy. McCall installed his turbine in February of 2006.
Even with this additional source of electricity, McCall said there are times when the turbine doesn’t produce enough electricity for his operation.
“Because of the number of hogs I have at this site, I have the need to either put up another wind turbine or increase the size of turbine I have,” McCall said, “so now I am faced with trying to decide what to do.”
EMS originally chose to sell the E15 model because of its reliability and ease of repair. However this model hasn’t been made since the 1980s and with the increasing popularity of renewable wind energy these turbines aren’t currently easily accessible. EMS continues to look for more of these models to purchase and refurbish, then resell.
Both McCall and Zieser financed their projects through a combination of grants, loans and personal financing. A USDA grant covered 25 percent of the costs and 50 percent was paid for through interest free loans through the Iowa Energy Center.
McCall offers this advice for producers interested in learning more about how wind energy might work in their operations.
“Talk with your power company early to size the turbine to fit your needs,” McCall said. “The earlier you apply for grants the better.”
Information about the USDA grants and other resources is available on the USDA Web site http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/ia/rbs.html.
The Alternate Energy Revolving Loan Program administered by the Iowa Energy Center in Ames provided the interest free loans for these farmers. This organization is dedicated to advancing Iowa’s energy efficiency and renewable energy use through research, education and demonstration. Producers can learn more about this loan program on the Iowa Energy Center Web site http://www.energy.iastate.edu/AERLP/index.htm.