The New England Dairy Promotion Board held its second Breakfast on the Farm event at the Vander Wey family’s Nea-Tocht Farm in Ferrisburgh, Vermont last June. Attendees were treated to a breakfast of pancakes, sausage, fresh fruit and yogurt. Visitors were invited to tour the farm where more than 100 volunteers answered questions and manned educational stations. The goal was to show the community what measures farmers take to produce safe, clean and nutritious dairy products and to introduce them to new technology like the Vander Wey’s 100kW wind turbine.

The Vander Wey’s partnered with Green Mountain Power and Aegis Renewable Energy to build the turbine at no cost to the farm. Aegis CEO Nils Behn explained that, “in exchange for locating the wind turbine on their farm the Vander Wey’s receive 10% of the energy generated by the turbine. The other 90 percent goes to the grid.” Each turbine is manufactured by Northern Power Systems in Barre, Vermont. In the end, Green Mountain Power owns the turbine and leases the land from the Nea-Tocht farm.

The Vander Weys milk about 250 cows with a Lely Milking Robotic System. The wind turbine saves them more than $2,000 dollars a year in energy costs. It is estimated that the wind turbine will produces more than 155,000 kilowatts a year which is equal to the amount of electricity used by 25 homes.

Behn explains “the first step in deciding where to place turbines is a wind analysis. The Nea-Tocht farm is located along the shores of Lake Champlain and has the added advantage of sitting on a rise that puts it above the land which surrounds it. Their prevailing winds are from the south. The turbine stands at 121 feet high which places it directly in that wind current”

The Norther Power NPS100 turbine is considered a mid-range turbine that is typically not used in wind farms. Only one or two are built on a site. The blades are almost 40 feet long and the turbine has a mechanism that detects both wind speed and direction so that the blades always face into the wind.  The optimum speed is 10-20 miles per hour for this particular size wind turbine. It is a gearless using permanent magnets to create the electrical field which results in a very quiet system.

Once Aegis decides on a location, they construct the turbine on site. Behn explains that the turbine needs winds between 7 and 8 miles an hour to begin turning and generating power and that it automatically shuts down if the winds exceed 56 miles per hour. Aegis installs, services and maintains the turbine, using a small remote controlled drone with a camera to conduct visual

The Phantom drone that Nils Behn uses for visual inspections of the turbine.

The Phantom drone that Nils Behn uses for visual inspections of the turbine.

inspections.  They can remotely monitor the wind turbine and also provide farmers with trending data so that they can see first-hand the positive results of their wind energy. Alexander DePillis, Senior Agricultural Development Coordinator, was in attendance at the Breakfast on the Farm event and fully supports Green Mountain Power’s wind turbine project at the Nea-Tocht farm. He is enthusiastic about the results he has seen thus far. “The wind study portion of the project is critical as two times the wind speed produces eight times the power. This is a perfect location for the Vander Wey’s turbine,” he explains.

In 2013, The Blue Spruce Farm in Bridport, Vermont was Vermont’s first farm to partner with Green Mountain Power to install a wind turbine. A total of 100-kW Turbines now dot the Vermont landscape, two of which provide energy to dairy farms. Both DePillis and Behn hope to see the number of turbines increase on Vermont Farms in the years to come.