Wind turbine powers the way for Ohio produce grower

REEDSBURG, Ohio — It may take a few years to pay for itself, but produce grower Monica Bongue has her sight set on wind and what it can do for her small farm in Ohio’s Wayne County.

In early December, Bongue worked with Wind Turbines of Ohio to install a turbine on her farm, which she anticipates will produce a monthly average 400-500 kilowatt-hours of electric.

It won’t be enough to supply all of her electric needs — roughly 900 kwh — but whatever it provides is that much less than she has to buy.

Leading the way

“It’s clean, renewable energy, and that’s really my goal,” she said. “I believe in it enough that I want to set an example.”

Although she is not the first in the state,or even the county, to install wind turbines, she is the first residential customer to provide wind-produced electric for Holmes-Wayne Electric Co-op.

Bongue will be paid for the electric she produces, roughly 8-9 cents per kilowatt hour.

Bongue is a certified organic producer for markets in Wooster, Ohio, as well as Akron and Cleveland. She also supplies produce to several Ohio restaurants and operates a Community Supported Agriculture program — a cooperative program in which she provides produce for about 15-20 members each week.

All of the growing, including some that takes place year-round inside her greenhouses, uses a lot of electric. Bongue figured her highest usage is in summer, when she operates coolers to preserve her harvest.

Some investment

Cost of the turbine was $15,000. She predicts it will pay for itself in 10-15 years, possibly sooner, if utility rates continue to increase.

Bongue and her husband, David Francis, learned about the turbine during Green Energy Ohio’s solar tour,which featured the Nussbaum dairy in Wayne County, where a wind turbine had also been installed.

She hopes that as the technology catches on, more people will make the investment, making more “green” energy and possibly bring down the cost of installation. She anticipates a 30 percent federal tax credit, which would bring the cost down to $10,500.

Because Holmes-Wayne is a member-owned co-op, she is not eligible for any state grants, which she said go to members of public utilities.

Catching wind

Robyn Tate, public relations for Holmes-Wayne, said a pilot wind program is in place at Indian Lake High School, in Ohio’s Logan County. That unit, supported by Buckeye Power, is 100 feet tall and produces a monthly average of 583 kwh per month.

Tate said wind can be a good supplemental source of power, but encourages homeowners to weigh the costs with returns, as well as their own unique wind conditions, which may or may not provide adequate speeds to operate the turbine.

An estimated 8-12 mph wind is necessary to keep them going.

“What we’re encouraging our members is to make sure that they do all of their research,” she said.

But with a elevation and lots of flat land below her, Bongue is confident she’ll get her share of wind. And so is Greg Courtney, president of Wind Turbines of Ohio. He said the wide-open landscape should help winds come up through the valley, giving Bongue’s turbine the punch it needs.

Courtney said his company has installed nearly 100 turbines over the last 18 months, with his most recent turbine erected in Ohio’s Ashland County, Dec. 18.

More about Wind Turbines of Ohio is available at www.windturbinesofohio.com.

About the Author

Chris Kick lives in Wooster, Ohio. An American FFA Degree recipient, he holds a bachelor’s in creative writing from Ashland University. He spends his free time on his grandparents’ farms in Wayne and Holmes counties. More Stories by Chris Kick

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