Brandon man finds cleaner energy source: Wind energyFlorian Ledermann decided to throw caution to the wind. Now the returns are breezing in for both the environment and his economy.
By: Jo Colvin, Alexandria Echo Press
Florian Ledermann decided to throw caution to the wind. Now the returns are breezing in for both the environment and his economy.
About four years ago, Ledermann, an Alexandria resident and conscientious steward of the environment, was on a steering committee looking into bringing wind power into Douglas County.
“We were very interested in energy independence for our country,” Ledermann said of why the committee formed. “We need to look at alternative energy sources because the energy needs are going to grow.”
After in-depth research on the paybacks and efficiencies of wind turbines, Ledermann decided to erect one on his property in rural Brandon. Since January 2010 the turbine has been up and operating, its propellers spinning on the breath of Mother Nature.
The turbine is perched on a hill on the Ledermann farm in Brandon, towering 106 feet into the air.
“The location is pretty important,” he said. “The higher the elevation, the higher the wind speed average. It also needs to be a distance from trees and obstructions.”
Crowning the turbine are three propellers, each 11 feet long, giving the spinning blades a 22-foot diameter.
The wind turns the propellers, which turn a generator. The electricity produced comes down through wires underground to an inverter that converts the energy to usable power for the Ledermann home. What isn’t used to power their residence is stored on the Runestone Electric Association (REA) grid. That electricity is immediately used by other residences on the grid.
“These units are designed to meet the needs of an average residential home or small hobby farm as far as production, both to use here and to sell the electricity,” Ledermann explained. “If we don’t use it, it is consumed right here in the local area.”
Ledermann’s hobby farm uses about 50 percent of the power produced by the wind turbine, with the rest benefiting REA customers.
He explained that in one day, the turbine could produce up to 240-kilowatt hours of electricity (10,000 per hour), which he compares to leaving on 100 100-watt light bulbs continuously. Thirty percent of the time, there is adequate wind to produce that maximum capacity.
When wind speeds exceed 30 miles per hour, the turbine “starts to govern itself, so it doesn’t produce more than 10,000 kilowatts. After 30 mph, it doesn’t go twice as fast.”
Ledermann touts the benefits of wind as an energy source that is “notorious for being very clean” with “no pollution factors.” He strongly feels that it is an alternative energy source that needs to be explored in an effort to become less dependent on other resources that deplete natural resources and cause pollution.
He also admits there are some drawbacks.
“The disadvantage of wind is that it’s not a dependable source 24/7,” he said. “It comes and it goes. It’s all dependent on if it’s windy or not. Wind is so variable, that is the challenge.”
Cost is another factor. It’s not cheap to install a wind turbine. A typical one of this type can cost about $44,000. Ledermann invested his own money, in addition to a grant from the USDA. His investment will eventually be returned in money saved on electric bills, but he estimates the turn-around to be about 20 years.
“The technology to harvest the wind is improving as every year goes along. As time goes on they will go down in cost and will go up in efficiency, availability and reliability,” he said.
But saving money isn’t Ledermann’s main goal in supporting and encouraging the development of wind power.
“This is a business investment as well as a philosophical one,” he said. “It’s all about the philosophy of clean energy and energy independence.”
Having a wind turbine on his farm has also changed Ledermann’s perceptive about the wind. As a boy, he grew up down the road from where his farm is now, and wind was not his friend.
“Wind created dust, and when you are a farmer, it’s not real pleasant when it is windy and dusty. Now when it’s windy I think, ‘Good deal! We are harvesting some wind today,’ ” he said. “I used to hate windy days. Now I love them.”
He also loves looking into the future, envisioning that the answers to a possible energy and environmental crisis could very well be blowing in the wind.