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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Makin' juice: Cranberries - and energy - harvested at Tomah bog

From an article by Danielle Begalke in The Country Today:

TOMAH - The story of how cranberry grower Fred Prehn came to own his first wind turbine begins in an unusual place.

His son, Fritz, a materials science major at UW-Madison, came up with the idea as the pair climbed Mount Aconcagua in South America.

"He said, ‘Dad, why don't you do something renewable and make a statement?' " Prehn recalled.

That statement was made last December when Prehn had a 35-kilowatt Endurance Wind Power wind turbine installed to power his Prehn Cranberry Co. in Tomah.

The source of renewable energy stretches toward the sky on a 140-foot-tall base.

In terms of wind turbines, that's relatively small, Prehn said. But the turbine has made a big impact.

Prehn said he had reservations about how well the turbine would work at his 160-acre Monroe County farm.

"There's better wind in other parts of the state, no question about it," he said.

Still, with average wind speeds of about 12.5 mph at his farm, Prehn estimated the turbine will pump out 100,000 kilowatts of energy per year - enough to run about eight homes annually. The turbine powers his shop and an employee's home.

According to Ry Thompson, a project manager at Seventh Generation Energy in Madison, which installed the turbine, the Endurance turbine fits well in Wisconsin's climate.

"We've been eager to install one of these," Thompson said. "It's a very well-designed, durable machine, and the 30-foot-long blades make it suitable to lower wind speed environments, as are common in Wisconsin."

Thompson said he expects the turbine to be popular among farmers, schools and manufacturing facilities.

Prehn said he earns 11 cents for every unused kilowatt the turbine produces.

"Right now my electric bill is nothing," he said. "Oakdale Electric is paying me."

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