OREGON: Small wind turbine brings big savings to Salem-area ranch

Cascade Buffalo Ranch generates renewable power for its sustainable operations
Ten years ago Eldon and Alice Metz opted to forgo long commutes by finding an unconventional commodity they could produce on their Marion County farmland. Buffalo got the nod. “Bison meat is very, very healthy,” explained Eldon Metz. “Buffalo have a fascinating back story.”

These days visitors who seek out Cascade Buffalo Ranch, located near Silverton and the Oregon Garden, find more than bison. Towering 140 feet over farm buildings and fields is a 10-kilowatt XZERES 442SR wind turbine. “People are curious about the wind system,” Eldon said. “A neighbor I’d never met came by and told me he’s always wanted one. Someone from Ohio stopped by last week to check it out.”

Eldon said he has always been interested in generating renewable energy. His interest intensified over the past decade as he noticed a steady increase in his energy costs. Wind power seemed like a good fit. “We thought the site was windy. It’s fairly high, more than 600 feet elevation. Visitors remark on how windy it seems,” he recalled.

Eldon began seriously considering a wind system after a representative of XZERES contacted him in spring 2012, visited the site and ran the numbers. Energy Trust of Oregon incentives, plus federal and state tax credits, helped make the case. He signed on and the locally manufactured small-scale wind turbine was installed and producing power by December 31, 2012.

The 10-kilowatt system is expected to generate 12,000 kilowatt hours of renewable electricity annually, more than one-half of the farm’s electricity load. The system includes a controller and inverter and is net-metered to Portland General Electric. “The wind turbine has reduced our PGE bill by over $100 a month,” Eldon reported.

The couple is grateful for Energy Trust’s contribution, a cash incentive of $52,000, based on the estimated average annual electricity production. It comes with the requirement that the system operate for 15 years, although small wind turbines typically operate for 20-30 years or longer if maintained properly. “We couldn’t have done this without Energy Trust,” Eldon said.

The ranch has an average wind speed of 4.6 meters per second, about 10 miles per hour. Wind speeds must reach 5 mph for the turbine to begin generating power. “Once the turbine starts turning, it will keep generating even after the wind backs off,” Eldon said. The system shuts down in high winds of 60 mph or more.

The ranch owners appreciate the simplicity of the XZERES wind turbine, which has no gears. “It makes for easier, less costly maintenance,” Eldon explained.

“We are thrilled with this machine,” he continued. “Now we look forward to windy days and the savings that they bring to our ranch.”

Source: Energy Trust of Oregon

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