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Harnessing the wind


Wind is a plentiful commodity in the Sandhills of Nebraska. Glen Coble & Sons' ranch, located in the rural area of Mullen, Neb., decided to draw on this untapped resource. They would use wind as a renewable energy source to generate electrical power for their ranch.

USDA Rural Development assisted Glen Coble & Sons through its 9006 Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency program with $14,725 to offset the expenses for harnessing the wind. The monies helped to install five Skystream model #3.7, 1.8 kW wind turbines. The power generated is anticipated to be sufficient for two submersible 3/4 hp livestock wells, a 15 hp electric turbine irrigation pump and external and engine block heaters for a portion of ranch equipment during the winter months.

"Our electrical need from the utility has been reduced by a third. The power factor over the past 7 months has averaged 30 percent which is based on actual production and capacity," stated Matt Coble, Coble & Sons Ranch.

"Working with Matt and his family on their renewable energy project has been both rewarding and educational," stated Area Specialist Mary Gambill, USDA Rural Development. "This is the first small wind project in the area and I look forward to watching the energy and environmental benefits that it will provide."

The turbines collectively produce, with a 23 mph wind, 9 kw/hour. The Skystream 3.7ยช is a new generation wind generator. It is considered the first all-inclusive wind generator (controls and inverter built in) designed to provide quiet, clean electricity in very low winds.

"We appreciate the quietness of these turbines and the fact that they have not disturbed the wildlife or welfare of the cattle. The deer and cattle graze right up to the base of the turbines," stated Coble.

The Skystream 3.7 operates by converting the kinetic energy of wind into a rotational motion that is fed into an alternator that produces usable electric power. Power production starts in a wind of approximately 8 mph (3.5 m/sec) rotating the blades at approximately 120 rpm. Once power production has started, it will continue at lower speeds down to 80 rpm and less than 3 m/s. At 20 mph (9 m/sec), blades achieve a rotational speed of 330 rpm, Skystream's rated speed. Wind speed above 20 mph will result in blade speed remaining fixed at 330 rpm. Rotational speed that exceeds 360 rpm will shut Skystream down for minutes, until normal operation can be resumed.

The Rural Energy for America Program will offer $55MM nationwide in fiscal year 2009 to farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses for the purpose of installing renewable energy systems and making energy efficiency improvements. Visit: www.rurdev.usda.gov/ne/Energy_energy_home.htm or contact your local USDA Rural Development office for further program and application information.

For more information regarding this project or new projects in north central Nebraska, contact USDA Rural Development Specialist Mary Gambill at 402-387-2242; or mary.gambill@ne.usda.gov.

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