A Prairie Home Companion – This farm family is energy secure

Bob is part of a large family of farmers in Mason County and he has always had an interest in getting energy from his environment rather than from the utility company. I should say that the idea for this post is 2 fold. I recently posted another personal story when I was talking about water conservation. These stories I think are helpful. It makes it clear that people could live utility free if they only put out the effort. It is also the case that I have listed his property several times in the Catalog of Energy Efforts in Central Illinois thread on CES’ Bulletin Board “Refrigerator Magnets”. (Click on our home page, click on Refrigerator Magnets on the menu on the upper left hand corner, click on the general Board and then click on that thread to see the list.)


I first reported their property after being chastised by a Board Member for ignoring my home county of Mason for energy related things going on in Central Illinois. Bob had one of the first sophisticated solar applications I have ever seen. He used a 2 story tall plexiglas faced solar scoop to heat water and thus heat his huge hog enclosure. Not only that but they have a rammed earth house which is pretty cool in and of itself.


Recently as I was driving by Bob’s property I saw that they were tearing down the hog enclosure. So I posted an update that the property had lost some of its solar potential, but I added that that happens because things change. If they quit farming hogs then the solar system would no longer be functional. I guess I thought in my head that I hoped the solar system would find a new home or a new use.


Imagine my surprise when I drove by this spring and saw 36 solar photovoltaic Panels had been erected behind the hog house. They looked operational. Wow, Bob had gone from pioneer to not and back to pioneer again! Understand, that Bob’s property is on one of the main routes to my parent’s house in Mason City so imagine my surprise on my next trip when I saw that a wind turbine had been erected as well. I was so excited that I stopped and left a business card. Bob called me back and I tell you what, I have a huge amount of respect for this guy.


Now I am not going to get all this right, and I am not going to cover everything, But lets start with the 10Kw. Bergey Wind Turbine:




 Actually it looks more like this coming from Riverton:



The system also uses 36 Sharp 208 Solar Photovoltaic Panels:



 In what probably is a 20 ft x 40 ft. array. This array and the turbine are protected by Delta Surge Protectors:




 Tied into a  DC disconnect and an inverter system:




Then run through an AC disconnect where it is finally “married to” the Utility Company’s power source (boo) in an integrated panel that has a meter that runs both ways:




 This is not the exact one he used, but it is a good example. Finally it is circulated throughout his house and his farm. He is not offline. He has to run a grain drier in his storage bins. There are other big ticket items on farms that requires high power consumption like welders and vapor mercury lamps. But he said on a good day when his usage is low he loves to watch the meter run backwards. This is all made possible by a dealer/installer that Bob refers to as a lifesaver:



Back to the rammed earth house, he says that they do not fear Tornadoes. They are surrounded by concrete walls. His daughter has a window, and they tell her if a storm gets bad to just come in and sleep with them (aaaahhh)…That’s amazing because almost everyone is afraid of tornadoes.


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