Sustainability is Blowin’ in the Wind


Jacobs_31-20_DAs both a sustainability professional and a trained aeronautical engineer, I make the following assertion: wind turbines are awesome. I have always been fascinated by their elegance and visual simplicity, using one of nature’s own shapes, the airfoil, to perform the same task as the coal-gobbling, smoke-spewing power plants that dotted the landscape back home in northeast Ohio.

Like solar, wind operates with what is effectively 100% efficiency – whatever energy isn’t converted to electricity simply goes back to nature, with no real waste. Because of this, wind power is very flexible. It can be used in very small applications, such as 200-400 W units installed on sailboats, to large scale generation, such as the gargantuan 7 MW turbine built by Enercon.

With this near-obsession in mind, I jumped at the opportunity when I received the invitation to see a wind turbine installed at Dave’s BrewFarm, in Wilson, WI. David Andersen, a man with a long
Jacobs_31-20_Apedigree when it comes to beer, is in the process of building a residence and brewery that will be almost completely self-sustaining once established. With wheat, hops, raspberries, and other ingredients grown on the property, David has everything needed to brew great beer. Producing power on site is only an extension of that concept. (All of the other great sustainable features of the BrewFarm are topics for another blog post.)

Jacobs_31-20_BThe wind turbine installed at Dave’s BrewFarm is a Jacobs 31-20, manufactured by Wind Turbine Industries, capable of producing 20 kW of power. While David’s not sure what percentage of the brewery’s electricity demand will be met, the turbine is the largest for which Wisconsin will allow sale of excess power at retail rates – excess power produced by larger turbines must be sold at the much-lower wholesale rates. The ability to resell excess power is what makes these turbines attractive to residential and small business customers. With some additional renewable energy grant money, the resale allows an owner to recoup the $60,000-$70,000 installation cost in 8-10 years, after which the turbine’s excess power can become a source of income.

Jacobs_31-20_CI don’t live far enough from civilization to have my own wind turbine, but that may not matter: Chaska may put one practically in my backyard. The City of Chaska generates its own power and is consequently required to meet state mandates for renewable power. To meet this requirement, the city is looking to install a 160 kW turbine, and the planned location is right at the entrance to my neighborhood. It won’t really be mine, but I can always pretend…



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