MOUNT VERNON — Electrical power generated by a wind turbine has come to Knox County. For 14 months, a turbine generator has been working on Windy Hill Farm, owned by Jim Gabriel on Ohio 229 west of Mount Vernon. Mounted on a 100-foot tower, the turbine stands 1,440 feet above sea level, almost the highest point in Knox County. Gabriel said the wind is better and more consistent at that height.
A medium-sized generator, the turbine is rated at 10 KV, or 10,000 volts in 25 mph wind speed. The tower is built in a triangle and is braced, but without brace wires intruding on the field. The base is reinforced concrete, 11 feet square and 6 feet deep. It is designed to withstand wind up to 90 mph.
Wind turns the 24-foot diameter propeller, spinning a generator that generates direct current power. The power then goes to an inverter, an electronic device that changes it to alternating current. The turbine is connected to the AEP power grid. Gabriel said a lot of power is required for the facility — two water tanks are heated by electricity, and many large bulbs light the training arena. When the turbine generates more power than what is used in Gabriel’s horse boarding and rider training business, the extra current goes into the AEP power grid.
The estimated average wind speed at the farm is 12 to 14 mph; the turbine will generate power in winds as slow as 8 mph. When the wind speed exceeds 30 mph, the system turns itself away from the wind and shuts down power generation. An electric resister brake slows the propeller when it exceeds a certain speed. Because the turbine is tied into the AEP power grid, it does not generate power when the grid is down. Gabriel said after the windstorm last fall AEP was down and they were without power for a week.
The wind in this area of Ohio is seasonal, according to Gabriel, with January and February being the peak months. In the summer, he said, there is almost no wind.
Ohio does have two areas with enough wind to sustain wind turbine power throughout the year. One is a flat, broad area of northwest Ohio that extends to west central Ohio; the other is northeastern Ohio, with lake effect wind off of Lake Erie.
Gabriel said his wind turbine installation has been mostly trouble free, other than a couple of minor electronic glitches. The subject of the tower intrusion on the landscape has not come up, he said. At 100 feet above the ground, the tower is barely visible from Ohio 229 or Dunham Road, which is slightly to the west of the farm.
The turbine creates a little noise from the propeller, but is not noticeable. Birds flying into the propeller, a concern in some quarters, does not seem to be a problem, he said. However, one pair of birds has built a nest in a corner of the triangular structure near the top of the tower.
Gabriel said the payback on his $70,000 cost of installation is estimated to be 25-plus years at current electric rates. Gabriel admits that is not a very good rate.
“But my wife and I are concerned about the environment and generating our own electricty with wind seems like a good thing to do,” he said.
The turbine is manufactured by Abundant Renewable Energy of Newberg, Ore.