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Harvesting the wind: Lyon County farmer generates electricity with 12kw wind turbine

Dennis Winkowitsch stands in the foreground as his 12-kilowatt wind turbine harvests the wind and produces electricity for his rural George, Iowa, farm.

GEORGE, Iowa – Imagine never having to pay an electric bill again.

Dennis Winkowitsch is well on his way with his 12-kilowatt Xzeres wind turbine on his farm about a mile and half outside of George.

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“I always thought that this is where things were heading, and I think more people are going to turn to wind turbines or even solar power to produce their own electricity,” said Winkowitsch.

The turbine, which stands at 80 feet tall with a 26 foot roder and three 13½ foot blades, was installed between August and October.

The turbine only needs mph of wind to run and will shut itself off if the wind speed reaches 40 mph.

“It’s been doing great so far,” Winkowitsch said. “In the first three weeks we had it up it produced 2,500 kilowatts, which is about a $275 savings.”

As an active member of the Lyon County Farm Bureau Board, Winkowitsch took an early interest in wind energy.

“During meetings the board did warn us about the cost of electric going up, and that they were trying to hold it off as much as possible, but that it would be inevitable,” he said. “Since the cost of electricity has been climbing up in last few years, and my average electric bill was averaging $400, I just thought if we can produce it ourselves then we should do that.”

After attending an open house about a year ago hosted by Daryl Bosma, who has a wind turbine similar to the Xzeres at his farm near Sibley, Iowa, Winkowitsch was impressed.

“After the open house I spent about six months just researching wind energy and the different brands of turbines, and I decided to go with Centsible Media out of Excelsior, Minnesota,” he said.

Winkowitsch partnered with Mike Woodley, a sales representative for Centsible Media, who assisted the Winkowitsches in applying for grants to afford the turbine.

“The wind turbine costs about $110,000, so it’s quite an investment,” he said. “Mike was the one who told us about these grants and helped us apply for them.

He applied for and was awarded a $24,000 Rural Energy for America Program grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and he also received a $20,000 rebate from Alliant Energy for the project.

“It was great that they helped us with these grants,” said Kim Winkowitsch. “They didn’t just drop us with this huge number and leave us to find for ourselves. They helped us every step of the way, which was important in our decision-making process.”

Installation of the turbine took place in August when a hole was dug and filled with 37 yards of concrete.

Winkowitsch added that most turbine bases are not that large, but one was needed to support the $10,000 hydraulic raise.

“The hydraulic raise is key, especially in the maintenance of the turbine,” he said. “Every three years, maintenance will be needed for the turbine. Cranes take the turbine down, grease it and do any other additional work that needs to be done.”

Cranes typically cost $500 an hour, said Winkowitsch, and while the hydraulic raise added to the cost of the turbine, he expects it will save him money in the long run.

After the cement base was in place, crews came back to mount the raise and install the main tower.

“It kind of reminded me of puzzle grass how they put the turbine together,” said Kim Winkowitsch. “They put the tower together in three sections, and they just pieced them together to sit on themselves, which had to settle in because it’s not like sections get bolted together.”

The workers again returned to lay the turbine back down and attach the head and blades.

The turbine, which sits about 400 feet away from the Winkowitsches’ house, is expected to produce 38,000 to 40,000 kilowatts of electricity per year, which amounts to annual savings of $4,180 to $4,400.

He expects the turbine to produce enough electricity to power his 500-acre farm, which contains nine livestock fountains, that run all winter and about 20 heat lamps that run February-March. The Winkowitsch family will lamb about 130 ewes and also has a grain bin dryer, a silo with several silage unloaders and motors, a corn auger and their house.

“Eventually I’ll produce enough kilowatts that I can sell back to Alliant to be placed on the electric grid,” he said.

Winkowitsch receives calls and questions about the wind turbine almost daily, but says that he doesn’t mind informing people about wind energy and how the wind turbine has helped him trim electric costs.

“We’ve had people with just their own private farms looking for information about wind energy, and even Sudenga Industries — out of George, Iowa — who was interested in doing putting up wind turbines for their company,” Winkowitsch said.

It is expected that in five years Winkowitsch will attain his goal of covering his own electric bill with the wind turbine.

Daily Globe Reporter Erin Trester may be reached at 376-7322.

Erin Trester
Erin Trester is the crime and city reporter for the Daily Globe. She's a native of Lewiston, MN, but moved to Buffalo, NY to attend college and obtained her bachelor's degree in Communications. She started at the Western New York Catholic Newspaper as a reporter in Buffalo, but in October 2013 she returned to her home state to start with the Daily Globe. Most of her spare time is taken up by her 13-year-old thoroughbred named Faith, but some of her other hobbies include reading, fishing and spending time with friends and family. 
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