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Wind generators bring smiles to their owners

Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - 9:10 am

Windy days bring broad smiles to the faces of east Allen County farmer Mick Lomont and Tim Whitcomb, owner of Evers Collision Works on Maumee Avenue.

The reason for the happy faces is they know the breeze is making their wind generators turn, which means electricity is being produced and saving them money on their electric bills.

Lomont, who had his wind generator installed in December 2009, says that when he and his brothers were working in the fields in March during penetrating winds that were numbing their fingers and burning their cheeks they didn't have many good things to say about Mother Nature. Now Lomont has an entirely different outlook about the wind.

“Even though it's a bit of a novelty,” Lomont said, “the wind energy is free and does provide about 10 percent of the electricity used on the farm. It didn't hurt that I got a $3,000 energy tax credit, am allowed to depreciate it over seven years because the power is used in our business and if it is not being used, the meter reverses and I receive a credit on my electric bill from Indiana & Michigan Power Co.”

He spent a total of $10,000 on installation.

“We set it up ourselves, and my electrician son-in-law hooked it directly into the 100-amp electrical box on our fertilizer containment system for just the cost of the meter, which was about $60.”

The 45-foot tall pole sits on a 6-by-6-by-6-foot concrete base that is hinged at the bottom for maintenance access. The Skystream model has a 2.6 kilowatt maximum capacity.

“The blades are 6 feet long, and if the wind gets to more than 45 miles per hour it shuts down automatically,” Lomont said. “It has been extremely efficient, very reliable and hasn't required much maintenance.”

Because Lomont's farm is at the intersection of U.S. 30 and Girard Road and the wind generator is clearly visible to passers-by on the highway, he gets a lot of drop-ins who ask all kinds of questions. He assumes it's because they've just traveled past the big wind farm in Ohio.

Lomont, who was born here, graduated from New Haven High School and attended Purdue University, has been farming since 1963, and purchased the family farm in 2003 after his mother's death. The farm has been in the Lomont family since 1887. His ancestors came to this area in 1846 from Besancon, France.

Whitcomb's smile comes from the fact that his Skystream wind generator produces 600-1,200 kilowatt hours a month (about 10 percent of his overall usage) and saves an average of $100 a month on his electric bill. Just a 1 mph wind is needed to turn the 6-foot blades and generate power.

“I grew up in an era of conservation where it was important to turn off the light when you left a room and close the door to keep the heat inside,” he said.

He talked at a home show to a Windwire 2001 representative about the efficiency and benefits of wind generation. Then he saw the representative the next year. “So, in the spirit of being 'green' I decided to go ahead and have one installed.”

Whitcomb said it took several months to get a variance from the city to put up a 55-foot-tall pole just off busy Washington Boulevard at his collision business.

“They had never issued such a permit in the past,” he said. “An energy tax credit of $4,900 made the $16,000 original cost a bit more palatable. It came with a five-year warranty and the payback is just 41/2 years. In addition, when there's excess generation it goes back into the grid and I receive a payment. It has a life expectancy of 25 to 30 years.”

If the power to his shop goes out, the wind generator stops automatically, and if the wind speed gets to around 60 mph it will also shut down.

“It has only stopped a couple times since having it installed in 2010,” he said.

“Though it doesn't provide enough electricity to operate everything in the shop, I don't know of any real disadvantages to owning a wind generator. Anytime you can pull free power from the wind, it's a plus.”

Whitcomb, who has owned Evers Collision Works for more than 30 years, says the wind generator makes it hard for anyone traveling west on Washington Boulevard to miss the business. He says he gets several people every week dropping in to ask questions about the spinning turbine.