Wind Turbine

January 16, 2014 – 2013 Wind Turbine Production

It’s time for the annual Skystream wind turbine update. The good news is that 2013 was the highest year of wind turbine production and just as importantly was the lowest year of energy use.

In 2013, the Skystream produced 4,684 kWh, an average of 390 kWh per month. The farm and household used 9,346 kWh, an average of 778 kWh per month. The Skystream produced 50.1% of our energy, a net improvement of about 1.5% over the previous year.

Annual turbine production – the boost in 2011 was due to a software upgrade.

Average monthly kWh produced.

This chart shows our average annual kWh use over the last 11 years. Some of this is due to better appliances, some due to children leaving the house, and increased awareness of energy use.

January 16, 2013 – 2012 Skystream Wind Turbine Production Stats

Well,the 2012 Skystream wind turbine results are in. In 2012, the Skystream produced 4,660 kWh, an average of 388 kWh per month. The farm and household used 9,603 kWh, an average of 800 kWh per month. The Skystream produced 48.5% of our energy.

This graph shows the average monthly kWh produced by the wind turbine over the past four years.

This graph shows how much electricity our household has used over the past 11 years.


This graph shows how the average monthly turbine production varies by month.


Month kWh Produced
by Turbine
kWh Used by
Jan ’12 458 764
Feb ’12 430 762
Mar ’12 688 763
April ’12 486 766
May ’12 553 831
June ’12 339 589
July ’12 104 1252
Aug ’12 107 827
Sept ’12 200 771
Oct ’12 423 698
Nov ’12 456 651
Dec ’12  416  929
2013 Totals 4660 9603




August 14, 2012 – Prez Stops by the Neighborhood

Barack was in the neighborhood today.  I was at work, so missed all the excitement.  He stopped at the wind farm just a few miles south of our farm.

Actually, I was a bit disappointed he didn’t stop in and check out our turbine!

One of the most short-sighted and non-sensical comments on the campaign is Romney’s assertion that he would “allow the wind credit to expire, end the stimulus boondoggles, and create a level playing field on which all sources of energy can compete on their merits.”  Of course, the 100 years of tax credits and subsidies for gas and oil are not on the table as Romney’s desire for a “level playing field” on energy policy does not extend to oil and gas, where he has pledged to retain up to 40 billion of subsidies and tax breaks.

40 billion for gas and oil.

0 for wind.

I wonder what he means by “level playing field?”

The only logical explanation that makes that position true is that nobody on his campaign has told him that wind turbines are a source of energy.

March 26, 2012 – Skystream Record Day!

I can feel it coming in the air tonight – a new daily Skystream production record in the air today!

Today the Skystream produced 51.4 kwh of electricity. It beats the previous best day by about 10%. We are a lock to beat our monthly record of 622 kwh. If, and it’s a big if, the average daily production of this month holds the next five days, we’ll be looking at around 680 kwh.

Yesterday wasn’t the windiest day we’ve had, but must have hit a high, steady, sweet spot that didn’t trip the wind overspeed shut-off too many times.

January 9, 2012 – 2011 Skystream Wind Turbine Results

Ok, the numbers are in from last year’s Skystream production. In summary, the Skystream produced an average of 387 kWh per month. This compares quite favorably to the average of the previous two years (336 kWh), and our household electric use dropped from an monthly average of 863 kWh in 2010 to 819 kWh in 2011. So, the Skystream produced 47% of our electric use in 2011.

Production stats for the Skystream Turbine for 2011.

Month kWh Produced
by Turbine
kWh Used by
Jan ’11 401 1010
Feb ’11 356 823
Mar ’11 498 839
April ’11 622 814
May ’11 561 690
June ’11 399 808
July ’11 120 1028
Aug ’11 105 880
Sept ’11 191 809
Oct ’11 380 640
Nov ’11 555 792
Dec ’11 455 1012
2011 Totals 4643 10145

2009 Summary
In 2009, the Skystream produced 4,068 kWh, an average of 339 kWh per month. The farm and household used 11,549 kWh, an average of 962 kWh per month. The Skystream produced 38.6% of our energy.

2010 Summary
In 2010, the Skystream produced 3,998 kWh, an average of 333 kWh per month. The farm and household used 10,284 kWh, an average of 863 kWh per month. The Skystream produced 38.9% of our energy.

2011 Summary
In 2011, the Skystream produced 4643 kWh, an average of 387 kWh per month. The farm and household used 10,145 kWh, an average of 819 kWh per month. The Skystream produced 47.2% of our energy.






April 20, 2011 – Powerline Problems

The last few days the turbine has been shutting down during times it should not.  I checked the diagnostic software that transmits info from the turbine itself.  The software reported that the grid voltage was not ok.  Line 1 voltage was at 133 and line 1 at 120 (the voltage should be close to the same on both lines). I called the power company, and within 30 minutes there was a truck here to look at the problem.  They thought it sounded like a neutral problem and it looked like the neutral wire connection near the transformed was bad, so they reconnected it and it was fine for a while.

The next day it was reporting the same problem and the lights in the house were slightly dimming and brightening.  I called again, and this time they found a problem on the pole in our yard.  One of the hot wires had lost its plastic coating and had evidently run against something it wasn’t supposed to touch and it looked like it had arced and melted about 1/3 to 1/4 of the metal strands that supplies power.

The red circle shows the replaced section of wire.  This tells me that the Skystream is a good forecaster of future household electrical problems and it does a good job of protecting itself  in the case of a problem with the quality of electricity coming to the house and turbine.  Kudos to Consumers Energy for promptly responding and fixing the problem!

one year ago…”Emma on the Track”

January 24, 2011 – 2010 Southwest Windpower Skystream Results

Ok, the numbers are finally in from last year’s Skystream production.  In summary, the Skystream produced nearly identical production per month (339 kWh in ’09 vs 333 kWh in ’10), but our household electric use dropped from an monthly average of 962 kWh to 857 kWh.

Production stats for the Skystream Turbine for 2009-2010.

Month kWh Produced
by Turbine
kWh Used by
Jan ’09 334 1275
Feb ’09 368 1109
March ’09 482 899
April ’09 570 961
May ’09 433 782
June ’09 210 693
July ’09 177 867
Aug ’09 146 923
Sept ’09 130 801
Oct ’09 411 889
Nov ’09 383 686
Dec ’09 464 1315
2009 Totals 4068 11549
Jan ’10 334 733
Feb ’10 376 851
Mar ’10 389 713
April ’10 524 755
May ’10 384 946
June ’10 227 740
July ’10 120 823
Aug ’10 116 1254
Sept ’10 280 656
Oct ’10 304 687
Nov ’10 591 850
Dec ’10 353 922
2010 Totals 3998 10284

2009 Summary
In 2009, the Skystream produced 4068 kWh, an average of 339 kWh per month. The farm and household used 11,549 kWh, an average of 962 kWh per month. The Skystream produced 35.2% of our energy.

2010 Summary
In 2010, the Skystream produced 3998 kWh, an average of 333 kWh per month.  The farm and household used 10,284 kWh, an average of 857 kWh per month.  The Skystream produced 38.8% of our energy.


2009 Summary
In 2009, the Skystream produced 4,068 kWh, an average of 339 kWh per month. The farm and household used 11,549 kWh, an average of 962 kWh per month. The Skystream produced 38.6% of our energy.

2010 Summary
In 2010, the Skystream produced 3,998 kWh, an average of 333 kWh per month. The farm and household used 10,284 kWh, an average of 863 kWh per month. The Skystream produced 38.9% of our energy.

one year ago…”Sleep, Who Needs Sleep”

December 19, 2010 – The Windspire that Never Was

Many of you may have recalled that I won a grant to become a “small wind demonstration site” to compare two different styles of turbines at the same location. The idea was simple – publish production data from two different turbines so potential purchasers might have some data other than the manufacturer’s claims.

So, I put down the money for the Mariah Power Windspire turbine last November (as in 13 months ago). The turbine was supposed to arrive in 2-3 weeks. It didn’t. It was scheduled to go up in the spring. Spring moved into summer and every scheduled date never panned out – due to manufacturing delays.

After the fall date came and went and still no turbine, I decided that it probably wasn’t going to happen and that I should try to get my deposit of half the cost back. Eventually, they refund came and it looks like the checks have cleared.

Now, we have to figure out how to give grant money back – evidently something the University’s accounting system isn’t set up to do!

one year ago…”Tank and Friends”

June 20, 2010 – Mammatus!

We had a spectacular show Friday night as the second round of storms for the day passed by to the east. A nice field of mammatus clouds developed.

mammatus over barn

I went out anticipating that the thunderheads to the east might have some interesting illumination from the setting sun to the west, but was very pleased to see these clouds and watch as the grew and developed.

skystream under mammatus

The following bit of information is condensed from Wikipedia: Mammatus are most often associated with the anvil cloud that extends from a cumulonimbus (thunderheads). Mammatus are often indicative of a particularly strong storm or maybe even a tornadic storm. These tend to form more often during warm months and are most common over the midwest and eastern portions of the United States.

Mammatus may appear as smooth, ragged or lumpy lobes and may be opaque or semitransparent. Because mammatus occur as a grouping of lobes, the way they clump together can vary from an isolated cluster to a field of mamma that spread over hundreds of kilometers to being organized along a line, and may be composed of unequal or similarly-sized lobes. The individual mammatus lobe average diameters of 1–3 km and lengths on average of 0.5 km. A lobe can last an average of 10 minutes, but a whole cluster of mamma can range from 15 minutes to a few hours. They usually are composed of ice, but also can be a mixture of ice and liquid water.

mammatus clouds

As the sun sank lower, the clouds turned from yellow to red.

It was rather exhilarating to be outside walking under this strange meteorologic phenomenon under a wide open sky!

one year ago…”Emma’s First 5K”

January 29, 2010 – How Much Noise Does a Skystream Make

I went out on a windy day to see if I could capture the sound the Skystream makes with my video camera. This is a short video of a Skystream 2.4 kw wind turbine on a 70 foot tower on a windy day. I mainly posted it to show how it sounds. You can compare it to a row of pine trees on the same property the same day. You might have to turn the sound up loud to hear it.

Since standard video cameras do not capture enough frames per second (you would need a special camera to capture the turbine spinning at 320 RPMs) the motion of the blades is not as you’d see with the blur of the naked eye.

For comparison, here’s the row of pine trees the same day.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #151″

January 6, 2010 – 2009 Skystream Results

Now that the year is over, it’s time to look at the Skystream wind turbine production results.

Month kWh Produced
by Turbine
kWh Used
by house/farm
Jan 334 1275
Feb 368 1109
March 482 899
April 570 961
May 433 782
June 210 693
July 177 867
Aug 146 923
Sept 130 801
Oct 411 889
Nov 343 686
Dec 462 1183
2009 Totals 4068 11549

For the year, the Skystream produced 4068 kwH, an average of 339 kWh per month. The farm and household used 11,549 kWh, an average of 962 kWh per month. The Skystream produced 35.2% of our energy. Our historical average electrical use the ten previous years before the turbine and newer appliances was 1255 kWh/month – resulting in an average reduction of 333 kWh per month due to new appliances and awareness.

The interesting point is that our monthly consumption has dropped almost the exact same amount (333 kWh less per month) as the average 2009 turbine production (339 kWh/month). The point being that our efforts to upgrade to energy efficient appliances has resulted in nearly exactly the same amount of savings as turbine generation. So the take-home story is that even if you are not able to add an alternative energy system to your home, you can still reach the same energy savings by using energy-conserving appliances!

We hope our electric usage drops further next year, as we hope to put in a more efficient water heater. We also will produce more with the addition of another turbine still coming at a date TBD.

one year ago…Upcoming Practical Farmers of Iowa Meeting”

October 18, 2009 – PFI Field Day

Yesterday was the PFI field day at the farm – I returned home literally an hour before the event. Linda had arranged the food and prepared a meal mainly from the farm – squash and apple soup, minestrone soup, and apple crisp.

The field day went well, there were probably about 25 attendees, from as far as Emmetsburg and as close as State Center. I’ve updated the wind presentation with updated info. Since I was presenting and talking, photos are lean. For more commentary, see the PFI blog for Friday October 23.

one year ago…”Oops, Market Peppers”

March 18, 2009 – Skystream Upgrade

Today we got our complimentary upgrade to our skystream turbine.  Among other things, this will change the approximate high shut-off speed from around 30 mph to around 50 mph.  I think this may increase our production 25-50%.  This month alone for example, we’ve had 3 days it was off.  Our record production for a day is 32, so we would have made at least 96 more and there is so much more power in the high wind speeds, that I think it would have been closer to 150 more, which is about 50% of the average monthly production.

Here the hatch of the turbine is open in a Frankenstein-type mode, and wires connected to install new software to allow the upgrade – this is just a s software upgrade, nothing mechanical.  We also have a new remote communications module installed that shows us real-time stats from the turbine.

one year ago…”We Knew This Day Would Come”

January 10, 2009 – Wind Turbine Presentation

Today was the 2nd day of the Practical Farmers of Iowa conference. Up today was my presentation entitled “Small Wind on the Farm.” I’ve converted the Powerpoint to a series of images. Keep in mind that the slides where only meant for talking points for the presentation, but the pictures may be interesting and I have some new data on production and savings included.

Since the windiest six months of the year are upon us and we are due for a software upgrade to raise the top cut-out speed, I’m envisioning the savings will be even greater in the coming months.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #102″

June 22, 2008 – Skystream Data Logger

Today was a quiet day after the party – tearing down is so much easier than setting up. It was nice to walk around the farm in all its well-keptness and not be prone to weed or fix “one more thing.” I spent some time with the Skystream data logger.

The data logger uses RF to transmit data from the turbine to a laptop or PC. For the geek side in me, it was intriguing to watch the power generation graph while listening and watching the turbine so I could get a sense of how much electricity it produces at different sound/wind levels.

On this graph, the left axis of the graph represents watts produced.  The white line is power produced and the red line is RPMs of the blades.  This graph is in real-time and shows about three minutes of generating time left to right.  The peak in this period is about 1800 watts (or 18 100 watt light bulbs for perspective).  The day before it was windier and even though the turbine is rated as a 2kW machine (2000 watts) we saw it peak as high as 3600 watts – just as in fishing “you should have been here yesterday!”

one year ago…”Rain at Last”

June 21, 2008 – Dedication of “Boreas” Wind Turbine

Today was the big day – one we thought might not happen. We were very close to postponing the party a week ago in the wake of the flooding and water in the basement that demanded all our time – but we went ahead with the triple bash of wind turbine dedication, 2nd Annual Logan Township Music Bash, and Summer Solstice bonfire.

Linda kicks off the dedication ceremony with a welcome and introduction to all the guests, estimated at about 150.

Mark Tinnermeier, President of the Board of Directors of Consumer’s Energy speaks on behalf of our electric co-op, which was wonderful to work with through the entire process.

Todd Hammen tells a little bit about his story and the turbine he installed.

Todd was so dedicated to getting things up and running and working out any kinks that came along, that he deserved another photo!

As Brian Eslinger, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Ames, gazes upward to the turbine, he places the turbine into a perspective of being indigenous to a place and using all the resources of a land judiciously.

I spoke briefly about the christening and how we had a hard time deciding if the turbine should be “christened” as a ship or having a ribbon cutting like a new structure. With great clarity, she looked at me and said – “a christening – it is a vessel of the wind.” So it is.

Although it wasn’t captured on film, I did break a bottle of red wine over the foundation of the turbine and named it “Boreas” for the north wind.

A couple of attendees gaze upward at the turbine in thought and conversation.

We found a recipe for windmill on a stick cookies and thought that would be appropriate for the day!

Party favors included these mini pinwheels.

Linda readies the nighttime landscape with luminaries.

My mom tends the beverage cart with a smile!

One of the bands led by the multi-talented Reggie Greenlaw. I think this might have been the first time the band was “wind-powered.”

The second band (told you it was a music bash) led by neighbor Annie Grieshop. It was wonderful for people to sit and listen to the band or listen to the music blowing in the wind around the farm.

A caller, gets some dancers organized into a circle for promenades circle dances under the turbine.

Later in the evening towards dusk the solstice bonfire was lit, preceded by a procession led by the scottish bagpipes.

I particularly like this photo with the bonfire, people, and turbine in the background just after dusk.

Another viewpoint of the spectacular bonfire.

As the bonfire ebbs late in the evening a couple of people enjoy the night air and waning fire.

Special thanks to Nancy Tepper for being places I wasn’t and forwarding the photos to me – many of her pictures are used in this posting.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #77″

May 25, 2008 – Skystream Summary

Doesn’t she look good up in the air? I’ll try to use this post to summarize some of the most-commonly asked questions about the Skystream. It is on a 70 foot tower (although they are commonly mounted on 35 foot towers in more crowded locations).

The machine is connected to the utility grid so excess power goes back to the grid (for example, on a windy night when our home load is low). The grid intertie leads to a couple of things people don’t immediately think about – when the grid goes down (when power goes off) so does the turbine. Like a generator, you don’t want current going back down the lines when linemen may be out repairing the lines. Nor does this unit have batteries. If you were in a remote location, far from the grid, that may be an option, but the batteries add substantially to the cost and only last about 10 years, so that configuration is not nearly as “green” as the straight grid intertie.

The unit recently had a software upgrade that changed the top speed before automatic shoutdown from 27 mph in the old one to 30 mph in the new one. It may seem like a small difference, but each time a gust goes above the upper limit, it turns off for 15 minutes before retesting the wind. So, if there’s a 25 mph wind blowing, a 29 mph gust won’t stop it and there is so much more power in the higher wind speeds that the latest upgrade has improved some installations by 20%

There’s also an optional RF USB device that you can plug into your computer and get a read-out of all the data coming out of the turbine. Eventually, the company would like to get this info via an internet connection where they could troubleshoot many potential problems without lowering the tower. Those units have recently been upgraded and the installer wants to wait a bit before I consider getting one to make sure all the bugs are out first. I do find myself going out quite often to look at it and the last few days have been very windy and it has been too windy numerous times.

One thing that struck me is that in a strange way it makes me much more conscious of my energy use – It’s fun those times the household load is lower than the turbine production and electricity goes out into the grid. Like the Prius drivers in the mpg drive challenges, it makes you look closer at the electricity you do use. And it is a treat to know that sometimes the computer is being powered by 100% clean and quiet wind power!

So in a way, I do get more enjoyment than the simple economic payback the turbine provides. I like that what used to be a monthly hole (paying the electric bill) now goes towards paying for a capital asset. Anytime you can convert a monthly payment into building equity (in this case, future “free energy”) it’s good for the long term.

I like the way it looks when you drive up the road to the farm. Like may things, I imagine the first few that go up, people think you might be a bit crazy – but after 5, 10, or 15 go up, then people start wonder what they are missing out on! We’re the third one in our county, so we’re on the way.

Today’s drudge job was piling the excavated soil back on top of the trench. Anytime you move wet soil by hand, it isn’t a fun thing, but in today’s heat and humidity (85 degrees, dew point in the low 70’s) it was less fun, but since there is a tornado watch and flood watch out for tonight, I thought it would never be easier or better than now.

one year ago…”Cute Chick”

May 21, 2008 – Final Connections for Skystream

Nothing nearly as exciting as yesterday’s tower raising tody.

Making the trench to run the underground wire from the tower to the utility pole.

The trench from the utility pole and along the shed.

The other half of the trench. I’m including these more for my own records so years from now I won’t have to say “Now where did that underground wire go when there is more building or trenching on the farm?”

Unrolling the wire along the path.

Todd’s working on the prep work for the connections at the base of the tower.

Local master electrician installing the connections on the utility pole.

A new meter reading 0!

one year ago…”Walkin’ the Dogs Down a Country Road”

May 20, 2008 – Up, Up and Away!

Today was day two of the wind turbine installation.

Here’s Linda a GJ checking out the turbine blades just out of the package.

Everyone want to get in on touching the blades that will be spinning high in the sky in a few minutes.

This is the main unit of the wind turbine. This is the “magic box” where the energy from the wind gets transferred into electricity.

Here the pieces of the tower are clamped together with a collar.

Lining up the layout of the tower.

This picture shows it all – the blades and generator in the foreground and tower and gin pole behind them.

Mounting the skystream to the tower. The green rubbery things are noise dampers to help decrease vibration noise from the appliance (the wind turbine itself is a UL listed appliance, making grid connection almost like plugging in a refrigerator).

There’s lots of rigging to do to attach the tower to the cement foundation tie-downs.

Here a ladder is being used as a gin pole to raise the gin pole. The gin pole is used to help raise the tower by providing a leverage point.

Pulling the gin pole into place.

The gin pole up and in position. This pole is half as tall as the tower and as the tower swings up, the gin pole will swing down, creating a “flying L.”

Here’s the fun part, installing the blades on the tower.

The blades get installed by turning them backwards onto the turbine.

Everyone’s excited as the tower begins to lift off the ground. It just so happened that everyone was home when the tower went up!

Here you can see the gin pole to the left going down and the tower to the right going up.

The tower about 1/3 of the way up.

Check out all the rigging as the gin pole and tower continue the climb towards the sky.

The tower almost in position!

Ta-Da! The tower is up and in place. Tomorrow the trenching and wiring take place to make the connections to the house and grid.

one year ago…”Raccoons Make Poor Electricians”

May 19, 2008 – Wind Turbine Assembly Day 1

Today, the wind turbine tower assembly began!

Here’s the automatic pipe cutter doing its job on cutting a pipe to length. Last week five 21 foot long pipes were dropped off at the end of the driveway and I moved them closer to the turbine with the tractor. The pipes are heavy – about 375 pounds each!

Applying paint to the pipes.

Cutting the guy wires for the towers.

There’s lots of drilling in the pipes for brackets and various other connecting pieces.

Moving the pipes that will be part of the tower assembly into place. I thought this was an easy and clever way to move a very heavy piece of tower.

Working on the assembly of the tower to one of the footings. Tomorrow, there will be more to report!

one year ago…”Trees All Tucked In”

April 30, 2008 – Wind Turbine Foundation Poured!

After the 3rd scheduled attempt, today was finally dry enough to get a cement truck with 5 yards of cement back to the wind turbine site without sinking out of sight.

Todd and James set the layout for the tower and four guy wire supports. A perfectly flat site is ideal, but hard to find, even in Iowa.

Setting the auger in the appointed location to dig out the first footing.

Great fertile, black Iowa soil coming up from the deep.

Setting and leveling the form for the footing.

Martin takes a peek down into the ground.

All five holes are laid out and dug out, waiting for the cement truck to arrive.

The bottom 1/4 or so of the hole is filled with cement.

The rebar form is set into the hole.

Cement is tamped in as the hole fills up.

Final finishing and troweling of the top of the footing.

The tie-down bolt for one of the guy wires is set into the footing.

The finished footing. Now we wait for 30 days or so for the footing to cure before arranging a time for the tower to go up.

It was a bit of a symbolic day to install the wind turbine footings as it was also the day the Iowa Utility Board approved the construction of a coal-burning power plant 15 miles away from us. The permit did come with some aggressive conditions, including 10% biomass fuel in the plant, and a 25% renewable portfolio for the power company by 2028 and 10% before the plant is built.

one year ago…”Blossoms at Sunset”

April 2, 2008 – Old Silver Maple Makes Way for Wind Turbine

I got a call a few days ago from the wind turbine guy saying that dependent on weather, April 11 was the day to pour the foundation for the wind turbine. Amazing as it may seem for an Iowa farm, we had a difficult time siting the turbine on our property because of all the tall trees, the 70 foot buffer from the edge of the property, and needing it reasonably close to the house. We eventually chose a site with a full northern and eastern exposure, good western exposure and poor southern exposure. I later found out that the most common wind direction is from the south, although the N-NW quadrant is the most common quadrant. In order help out the southern winds, we opted to take out one old silver maple tree and to place the turbine in the path of the hole in the trees.

Here Martin plays on the trunks of the recently felled tree. I called in a professional to cut the tree down as one main trunk was leaning towards a building and I imagined three possible outcomes (presented in most likely order of possibility). 1) tree falls wrong way 2) chain saw gets stuck in tree 3) tree falls right way.

This shows the view of the tree before it was cut.

The view of the sky after the tree falls. Now it is my job to cut it up into firewood and haul the branches to a bonfire pile.

one year ago…”Willows in the Ground”