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Harvesting Water is a Breeze

Jonathan Barter’s wind turbine, well head and storage tank. Courtesy of Troy Bishopp.

When Jonathan Barter and his family arrived from Pennsylvania in 2006 to take over a fallowed, 210 acre farm in Yates County overlooking Kueka Lake, little did they know how lucky it was to live on a breezy knoll in wine country.  “We had a vision of turning the goldenrod into lush green pastures with livestock and working towards getting off the grid”, said the Scotsman.

“Our goal of a diverse grazing system with sheep and beef cattle was coming together but providing water to the outlying paddocks was a real bottle-neck.  Because of the house well not keeping up with the 170 head’s thirst, hauling water by trailer every day was necessary.  This practice was just time consuming, expensive and stressful”, said Jonathan.

To quote Bob Dylan: “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind”.  The help to solve this dilemma and free up time to market meat and manage the farm came in the form of a 2008 USDA-NRCS CIG grant offering cost-share assistance for a small-scale wind installation by the Finger Lakes Resource Conservation and Development Council.  Working with USDA-NRCS RC&D Council Coordinator Richard Winnett and Automated Control System’s Engineer, Sean Mulvey based in Rochester, N.Y., Jonathan designed a system dominated by 35 foot tall, 4 amp wind turbine, with a solar photovoltaic panel backup.

The system draws on complementary power sources, harvesting energy whether the sun shines or the wind blows. The combined 500 watts power a pump, which runs at 350 watts—a built-in safety net, and two batteries store the excess output.  “We were very fortunate when we drilled down just 60 feet and hit a 50 gallon per minute gusher”, said the delighted farmer.

A group of interested farmers listen to Jonathan Barter and Sean Mulvey of ACS Green Power. Courtesy of Troy Bishopp.

The pump is set to fill an above-ground storage tank, which was bought from the former Pleasant Valley Winery, and gravity flows to a watering trough.  The tank stores four days’ water—a grace period longer than the entire watering cycle back in the days of the trailer.  The annual system cost with depreciation, upkeep and energy tax credits runs around $750/year to operate.  Sean commented that most components have a five year warranty but he would expect a twenty year system life.

The Barter Farm energy project was the third in a series of on-farm renewable energy field day tours co-sponsored by the Cornell Farms Energy Work Team, a project of the Cornell Small Farms Program with funding through NE SARE and the Finger Lakes RC&D Council.  Violet Stone of the Cornell Small Farms Energy Work Team welcomed the 30 farmers and landowners from around the state to the mission and need for simple, affordable alternative energy solutions.  “Our vision is to provide clear and accessible information to small farmers about energy conservation strategies and renewable energy technologies.”

The electrical control panel for the wind turbine and solar panel. Courtesy of Troy Bishopp.

“I have come to appreciate the peace of mind this alternate technology has provided me.  I now have more time to devote to my family, my business and watching the breeze help me power a profit”, said Jonathan.

For more information:  Contact Violet Stone at 607-255-9227 or e-mail vws7@cornell.edu.  Sean Mulvey at acsgreenpower.com or (716) 692-5755 and Richard Winnett, Finger Lakes RC&D Council at (607) 776-7398 Ext. 5


Troy Bishopp

Troy Bishopp, aka "The Grass Whisperer" is a grass farmer and grazing specialist for the Madison Co. Soil and Water Conservation District and the Upper Susquehanna Coalition in central New York.  To read more of Troy's essays, visit http://www.thegrasswhisperer.com/

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