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June 2012

Home-Scale Wind Turbines Should you install one?


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Volume 66, Number 6, June 2012

“The Rural Voice of Nebraska”

Staff Editor Wayne Price Editorial Assistant Kathy Barkmeier

Contents Features

Beat the Heat

6

Published by the

Visit us at www.nrea.org General Manager Jay Holmquist President Gary Dill, Roosevelt Public Power District Vice President/Secretary Randy Papenhausen, Cedar-Knox Public Power District Treasurer Ron Jensen Loup Valleys Rural Public Power District Published monthly by the Nebraska Rural Electric Association, 1244 K Street, Box 82048, Lincoln, Nebraska 68501, (402) 475-4988.

Advertising in the Rural Electric Nebraskan does not imply endorsement for products by the Nebraska Rural Electric Association. Correspondence should be sent to Wayne Price, Editor, Rural Electric Nebraskan, Box 82048, Lincoln, NE 68501. The Rural Electric Nebraskan is printed by Jacob North Companies, Box 82046, Lincoln, NE 68501. Form 3579 should be sent to the Rural Electric Nebraskan, Box 82048, Lincoln, NE 68501. Periodicals postage paid at Lincoln, Neb. POSTMASTER: send address changes to the Rural Electric Nebraskan, 1244 K Street, Box 82048, Lincoln, NE 68501. Publication numbers are USPS 071-630 and ISSN 0193-4937. Rates: $10 for one year; $15 for two years; $20 for three years, plus local and state tax.

June 2012

You don’t have to sacrifice comfort and convenience to save on your electric bill. All it takes is smart planning, a little elbow grease, and dedication to beating the heat — and high bills. Writer Magen Howard shares a few ideas on how to reduce your electric bill this summer.

Home-Scale Wind Turbines

12

Max Van Skiver, general manager of South Central Public Power District, takes a look at home-scale wind turbines in Nebraska. Using the average production statistics of 10 wind turbines operating in the western half of Nebraska that came into service over a span of 42 months, he addresses the common question of “How much money can I expect to save if I install a wind turbine?”

Departments EDITOR’S PAGE

4

SAFETY BRIEFS — Murphy

16

CUT YOUR UTILITY BILLS by James Dulley

18

RECIPES

20

ADULT PEN PALS

21

MARKETPLACE/CLASSIFIEDS

22

On the cover Concern for the environment and rising costs for electricity have sparked an interest in renewable energy systems, notably small wind turbines for homes. See related story on Page 12. Photograph by Wayne Price.

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EDITOR’S PAGE

Don’t let high gas prices ruin your budget t is just over 34 miles from my house to the office so I get to spend a bit of time in my car each day commuting back and forth. My car gets pretty good gas mileage but with a gallon of unleaded gas costing about a dollar more than it did last year at this time, I’m always trying to improve fuel efficiency whenever I can. I have tried to reduce the amount of quick trips to the store or the bank. Now I try to schedule a single trip with multiple stops. I try to visit places that are on my way home, rather than go to stores that are on the other side of town. Those impulse trips out to just “look around” at a store during my lunch break are a thing of the past. It is amazing how quickly those little trips can add up. In a recent press release The Alliance to Save Energy has calculated that the average U.S. household will spend about $3,500 to power its vehicles this year – $800 more than last year. That sort of increase is a major burden for a lot of Nebraskans, including me. Taking steps to improve fuel efficiency can help keep more money in your wallet and will help your vehicle last longer. One way to increase your vehicle’s fuel efficency is to make sure it’s running at its maximum potential. Be sure to have your vehicle tuned up and checked out for other maintenance problems. Fixing a problem, such as a faulty oxygen sensor, can improve mileage by up to 40 percent. Making sure the tires are properly inflated can improve mileage by up to 3.3 percent. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.3 percent for every 1 psi drop in pressure in all four tires. In addition, proper inflation improves tire longevity – and your safety while driving. DOE cautions not to go by the maximum pressure printed on the tire’s sidewall, but to find the proper tire pressure for your own vehicle on a sticker on the driver’s side door jamb or in the glove box, as well as in your owner’s manual. Be sure to use the manufacturer’s recommended grade of motor oil when you get your oil changed. Using a different grade could cost you a reduction in mileage by up to 2 percent. For example, says DOE, using 10W30 motor oil in an engine designed to use 5W-

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by Wayne Price

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30 can decrease mileage by 1 to 2 percent; and using 5W-30 in an engine designed for 5W-20 can lower mileage by 1 to 1.5 percent. The Department of Energy also advises looking for the phrase “Energy Conserving” on the American Petroleum Institute performance symbol to ensure that the oil contains friction-reducing additives. Look in the trunk and make sure it is not filled with unnecessary items. The extra weight you’re carrying around in the trunk could reduce your mileage by up to 2 percent. It’s a good idea to have an emergency kit but you shouldn’t carry around a lot of extra stuff. Same goes for a roof rack. If you’re carrying a lot of things on the roof, you could be cutting your fuel economy by 5 percent. Another way to improve your fuel efficency is to change your driving habits and slow down where you can. Forms of aggressive driving, such as speeding, rapid acceleration and rapid braking, can lower gas mileage by 33 percent on the highway and by 5 percent in town. Speeding has a significant impact on fuel efficiency. Gas mileage drops at speeds above 60 miles per hour. Each five miles per hour over 60 is like paying an extra 24 cents per gallon of gas. Letting your car idle wastes gas and money. An idling engine gets zero miles per gallon while still burning fuel in the tank. Vehicles with larger engines typically waste more gas at idle than those with small engines. The Alliance to Save Energy suggests planning your trips carefully. Combining errands into a single trip will save time and money. Multiple short trips made from a cold start can use twice as much fuel as a multipurpose trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm. If you’re doing any driving in a larger city, plan your outings during off-peak hours to avoid heavy traffic. Stop and go traffic conditions can increase your fuel costs and stress level. Consider other alternatives to driving if you can. If the weather’s nice, try walking to the Post Office, instead of getting in your car. Take advantage of carpools to cut your weekly fuel costs and save wear on your car by taking turns driving with other commuters.

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Regular maintenance for your air conditioner, including checking for a clean filter, will help it run more efficiently.

Beat the Heat Keep your home cool and energy bills lower with savings tips by Magen Howard

cold glass of lemonade. A shade tree near a rushing brook. A paper fan swished back and forth. The advent of air conditioning replaced these time-tested methods of staying cool during summertime temperature spikes. But with quick relief from stifling heat also came higher electric bills. Now, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that nine percent of

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Americans’ household energy costs are dedicated to cooling. But you don’t have to sacrifice comfort and convenience to save on your bill. All it takes is smart planning, a little elbow grease, and dedication to beating the heat — and high bills. Seal Air Leaks A home that feels cold and drafty in winter becomes hot and stuffy in summer. Taking time to seal airleakage points around your house will offer cooler temperatures and lower electric bills year-round.

Add caulk and weather stripping around doors and windows, and check where walls meet ceilings and floors. Look at items that might seem innocuous but usually leak, like recessed canister lights and outlets. Check air barriers that are working in conjunction with your insulation. Sealing up the cracks and joists in your attic will help your insulation do its job. Seal Ductwork Ductwork could be the most important piece of equipment to seal. If it’s exposed, you can do this yourself

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with a paintbrush and mastic, which you can purchase at any home improvement store. If not, hire a professional HVAC contractor. Leaky ductwork will make your air-conditioning system work a lot harder than it should have to, which drives up your electric bills and wears out HVAC equipment more quickly. “Ductwork is one of the first places you should look if you’re trying to lower your energy costs,” stresses Brian Sloboda, senior program manager for the Cooperative Research Network, an arm of the Arlington, Va.-based National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. “Sometimes, ducts aren’t even properly joined at all. That wastes a huge amount of energy. Sealing them up goes a long way to improving your home’s energy efficiency.” Landscaping Planting a tree or climbing vine not only adds a little flavor to your home’s landscape; it also can cool down your house when the sun beats down. Trees in the right spot can decrease your home’s energy use by up to 25 percent, according DOE. Plant deciduous trees — those that lose their leaves every year — to the south and west of your home, and you’ll gain shade in the summer and sunshine in the winter. According to DOE, a 6-foot, 8-inch deciduous tree will begin providing shade the first year. And it only gets cooler after that, reaching your roof line in five to 10 years. If you want shade all the time or need to block wind, choose evergreens. But when you’re preparing to choose your greenery, keep in mind that trees should never be planted underneath a power line. Call your rural electric utility to find out how far from lines you should plant, and then check out ArborDay.org to learn about the types of trees that are best for your home’s landscape. Air-Conditioning Units Logic would seem to dictate that a larger air-conditioning unit would

June 2012

mize efficiency. Use the “auto” function instead of keeping the fan running all the time. Regular maintenance to keep it in good working order is a good idea, as is checking and changing the air filter regularly. Also, set your thermostat as high as you can while maintaining your comfort level — the smaller the difference between indoor air and the great outdoors, the lower your cooling costs will be. And make sure to rearrange your furniture so that appliances that put out a lot of heat aren’t near the thermostat.

Strategically planted trees can help cut down on your cooling costs in the summer. Photograph provided by Whirlpool Corporation keep your rooms cooler. In fact, the opposite is true. A unit that’s too large for the space will operate inefficiently and could even cause mold problems because of humidity. Whether you have a window unit or a central air-conditioning unit, correct sizing is key. “A licensed professional should size your central air-conditioning system using a mathematical code — or, better, an automatic computer program,” Sloboda cautions. “Units that are incorrectly sized will wear out faster and will not properly cool your home. Bigger isn’t always better.” If you’re in the market for a new air conditioner, be sure to purchase one with an Energy Star label, which means the product has met specific energy efficiency standards set by the federal government. Room units are about 10 percent more efficient than their non-Energy Star counterparts, while central units are about 14 percent more efficient. Once you’ve determined whether your air conditioner is the correct size or have picked out a new one, start adjusting the settings to maxi-

Programmable Thermostats Speaking of thermostats, a programmable model could help you save big bucks if it fits your lifestyle. A programmable thermostat will turn your temperature up automatically during times of the day you specify. But if you purchase one, it’s important to take the next step and program it — a step many people fail to take. “A programmable thermostat is an excellent tool to improve your home’s energy efficiency, but you have to actually program it, and then you have to leave it alone,” says Sloboda. “Fiddling with the settings won’t help — but getting the settings to where you’re comfortable when you’re home and then forgetting about it will really help with energy savings.” Programmable thermostats are best for people who regularly leave their homes (without pets inside) for at least eight hours at a time. Your Electric Utility is a Resource As you work this summer to beat the heat, don’t forget about your local electric utility. An energy efficiency expert there can help you determine the right steps for your home, including whether a home energy audit will help find more savings. You can also visit TogetherWeSave.com to find out how little measures around the house add up to big energy savings. Sources: U.S. Department of Energy (EnergySavers.gov), Arbor Day Foundation (ArborDay.org)

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Solar accent lighting lends a whimsical twist to gardens, but the light provided at night isn’t bright; it simply adds color and solar flair to landscaping. Photograph provided by Moonrays

Solar FLAIR How to get the brightest benefits from solar accent, path, and task lighting by Megan McKoy-Noe

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ant to add some outside lighting pizzazz without installing wiring or impacting your electric bill? As prices for solar technology drop, many manufacturers are harnessing the sun to help consumers add solar “flair” outdoors. While solar lights aren’t typically as bright as traditional outdoor light options, by keeping a few rules of thumb in mind you can get the brightest benefit from sun-powered lights.

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What to consider Solar lighting takes many forms: stakes, lampposts, hanging jars, and more. But every unit follows the same basic principle: the mechanism generates and stores energy during the day, then releases it at night. Each light includes a miniature solar panel, typically a four-cell array measuring 2-by-2 inches. On the inside of the light fixture, the solar panel attaches to a rechargeable battery, at least one light-emitting diode (LED), a controller board, and a photoresistor (light sensor) to manage when the light shines and when it recharges. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) advises consumers to consider geographic and site-specific variables. Solar lights will only work if they receive the recommended amount of sunlight — generally 8 to12 hours a day. Fewer hours of sunlight translate into fewer hours of yard light — shorter winter days typically result in a 30-50 percent output decline. Avoid shade from shrubs, trees, or buildings, and check the miniature solar panels periodically for bird droppings, leaves, insects, or other debris that might block the sun. Not only does a lack of sun impact light output; receiving less sunlight than recommended could shorten the battery life, too. Accents Before buying solar lights, think about the need it will fill. There are three different types of outdoor lights: accent lights, path lights, and task lights.

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Accent lights add a glow to a landscape, but do not illuminate spaces well. Offering a lower light output, they’re generally more affordable than other solar lighting options. Search for solar lighting on Etsy.com, a popular online handmade marketplace, and on any given day almost 200 accent lighting options appear. Creative recyclers use Mason jars, soft drink bottles, lamp bases, bird cages, and other lidded antiques to house the light. The fixture’s base doesn’t matter — interchangeable lids contain the solar array and bulb. Accent lights can be colorful — online retailers like EarthTech Products offer illuminated glassblown bulbs or stylized glass flowers. Amber LEDs are often used as an alternative to white, casting a softer glow but still revealing only a limited amount of area outside of the light. Consider using accent lights to mark hazards (stones, low walls) or as part of a garden feature, but do not rely on them for visual aid at night. Path Lighting Solar lights fill an important role when used for path lighting. Commonly sold in sets of four or eight, these lights often come with stakes or hanging hooks to be placed at regular intervals along a path or driveway. Path lights focus light downward and typically illuminate an area up to 20 feet away from the base, depending on the strength of the light. Some sets offer automatic on/off settings triggered by outside light; others include a six-hour or 10-hour setting. An on/off switch may also be included, allowing owners to soak in the sun for several days, then turn the lights on for a special nighttime event. Suspended lights are not the only option; manufacturers like HomeBrite Solar produce steppingstone solar lights. Solar “stones” are also available for outdoor lighting that blends in with the environment.

June 2012

Task Lighting The sun also fuels practical outdoor lighting needs like floodlights and security motion sensors. These types of solar lighting generally provide high light output — though not as bright as traditional spotlights — and are more expensive than other solar lighting options. Solar lampposts from manufacturers like Gama Sonic offer between eight hours and 10 hours of light with an output equivalent to 450 lumens (40 watts). Security lights are often ready to mount to a wall — as with all solar lighting, be sure the building or trees do not block the solar array. Some models have the solar array separate from the light to allow for prime sun placement. Practical Matters Although LEDs work well in cold temperatures, consider bringing

accent and path lighting solar fixtures inside during harsh weather (freezing temperatures, heavy downpours, etc.). All outdoor solar lighting should be water resistant, but task lighting tends to be hardy and can withstand fiercer weather. And although it’s fun to bring bits of solar flair inside for parties, remember to put all solar-charged items back outside to charge — leaving a solar jar on a windowsill will not work due to UV protection films and overhangs on many windows. Read user reviews before buying a product online or in the store. Some solar lighting sets may not last long, and the DOE advises consumers to make sure replacement bulbs and batteries are available. A variety of solar-powered lighting options are available at stores like Target, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and several online retailers. Sources: U.S. Department of Energy, How Stuff Works.com, Gardeners.com

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Creating electricity on the go hat do cell phones, tablets, vary from an hour to a couple of laptops, handheld gaming hours. Also, check the manufacturer’s systems, and other mobile specifications for how long the batdevices have in common? Aside from tery takes to charge. It could be as being part of American’s everyday much as 10 hours. lives, they are also all dependent on • Ask yourself how often you will batteries. use your mobile device and how Having a dead cell phone battery is patient are you when it comes to frustrating at best and dangerous at recharging. If the recharge time is 10 worst — for example, if your car hours, it will need 10 hours out in the breaks down and you have no way of sun. Do you have enough time for calling for help. Battery technology that, or is a smaller system better fithas advanced to the ted to what you need? point that batteries At the 2012 can last several Consumer Electronics hours or even a couShow, several solarple of days without recharged devices being recharged, as made their debut. long you don’t use One receiving the the device they’re most attention — a powering too much. netbook by Samsung Products have A new netbook by Samsung — featured a solar been introduced that allows users to supplement the panel mounted on the promise to charge computer’s battery charge with back of the lid. But your mobile device solar power, thanks to a slim just because a product without being con- panel mounted on the lid. boasts a solar panel provided by doesn’t mean that it nected to a wall out- Photograph let or the power port Samsung will create enough of a car. In most electricity for you to cases, these units use sunlight to permanently cut the power cord. recharge the battery. Solar panels tend to be for suppleSolar chargers are ideal for people mental power only and don’t replace on the move or who spend a lot of recharging through a wall outlet. time outdoors and still want to be While solar chargers are the most connected to the rest of the world. prevalent, there are other options. Solar chargers come in many differOne company offers a hand-held ent shapes and styles. Prices typicalwind turbine that promises to give ly range from $50-$200. you four minutes of talk time for 20 Keep in mind that mobile chargers minutes of charging, assuming the do not directly recharge your phone wind blows. or computer; they charge batteries One guaranteed way to get power that are included in the charger. The into your mobile devices uses a handbatteries then recharge your device. crank dynamo, similar to those found Here are some things to look for on emergency radios. With a little when buying a mobile charger. elbow grease and some patience, you • Size and weight may be factors. can generate enough electricity by Most are designed to hang off of a hand to recharge a battery. backpack. The larger the panel, the A word of caution: Many mobile more energy the panels will be able to chargers come from new or emerging create. But with larger panels weight firms without a proven track record. will also increase. So make sure before purchasing to • Some are made of rigid plastic read reviews from actual users or ask while others are flexible and roll out. someone with experience how the • Check the recharge time. It will product performed.

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High-def cable boxes, DVRs, put a drain on household energy use

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he high-definition cable box or digital video recorder (DVR) that sits innocently by your TV may be using more electricity per year than a new energy-efficient refrigerator. A recent study found that the boxes use $3 billion in electricity every year in the U.S., with 66 percent of that power wasted while the TV is not being watched or the DVR not recording. Unfortunately, until cable boxes and DVRs become more energy efficient, there’s no easy solution for consumers looking to save energy, explains Brian Sloboda, a senior program manager specializing in energy efficiency with the Cooperative Research Network (CRN), an arm of the Arlington, Va.based National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. “The simple answer is using the power button on the remote or adding a power strip to turn the power off when not in use,” Sloboda says. “The problem is that when you cut off all of the power, your DVR will not record programs. You also won’t be able to get automatic software updates, and the program guide may be wiped out.” Your best bet is to ask your cable or satellite provider for a box carrying the Energy Star label, which certifies that a product attains specific energy efficiency standards. “Don’t assume it’s an Energy Star box,” Sloboda emphasizes. “Look for the logo on the front of the device.” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which created Energy Star in 1992, says it plans to tighten energy efficiency standards for high-definition cable boxes to an average of 29 kilowatts of use per year by the middle of 2013, down from a current average consumption of 38 kilowatts. Sources: The New York Times, Cooperative Research Network

Rural Electric Nebraskan


Go with the low-flow id you know that just making hot water can consume up to 14 percent of your home energy dollars? One way to help save on waterheating energy is, of course, to use less hot water. Here's a way to do that and still keep clean: Install a low-flow showerhead. These inexpensive, easily installed showerheads use about half as much water as the typical showerhead, but give you the same water pressure and the same great shower. If you've tried one of the older versions of the low-flow showerhead and didn't like it, it’s probably time to try again. The new models are vastly improved and can really help you save money on your electric bill. A variety of showerhead styles are available at your local hardware store or from retailers online. Prices range from less than $10 for simple, no-frills plastic ones to more than $100 for designer showerheads. Source: Alliance to Save Energy

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Home-Scale Wind Turbines

Monthly M ontthly hl y on th 25% 20%

20.2%

22.0% 19.7%

15%

by Max Van Skiver, P.E. 10%

12

Average Monthly Average M on nthly th kWh/kW kWh/kW Production Produc odu du u tion Ja Ja Fe Fe Ma A p Ap Ma Ju

150 132 32 163 173 175 129

Ju Ju Au Au S Se Oc Oc No No De De

94 95 107 158 151 151 151 15 5

Annual kWh/kW Annual kWh//kW kW W = 1,678 Non-summer mme e = 1,253 er Summer merr = 425 4

5%

Ma rch

0%

Jan ua ry Fe br ua ry

E

generator driven by a renewable energy resource are billed monthly for the difference between the energy delivered by the utility to the consumer, and the energy delivered by the consumer’s renewable generator to the utility (the net amount of energy delivered by the utility over the course of the month). Net metering requires other consumers to subsidize consumers who install generators powered by renewable energy resources. This is because net metering allows consumers a kilowatt-hour (kWh) offset at retail rates for energy produced by renewable resources, even though the actual value of energy produced by the renewable resource might be much less. The Nebraska Legislature adopted rules to limit the negative financial impact of net metering on con-

Avgerage A vgerage Capacity C ap pacity Factor Facctor

xtracting energy from the wind is not new. Wind has been used to pump water for centuries. Producing electricity using wind is a more recent use. Before Rural Electric Administration brought central station power to rural areas, many rural people used direct current wind generators and batteries to provide light and power to a limited number of appliances on their farms. The widespread use of wind turbines to produce alternating current electricity started as a result of the energy price shocks of the 1970’s. Many turbines were installed in California and other states with high electric costs during the early 1980’s. A few were installed in Nebraska. Within a few years, most of the small wind turbines installed during the early 1980’s were no longer producing electricity. Apparently, bearing and blade failures were a common problem. Thanks, no doubt, to better materials and a better understanding of the physics, over the past 30 years, improvements have been made in home-scale wind turbine technology. There has been renewed consumer interest in home-scale wind turbines over the past few years. This interest increased after the State of Nebraska adopted net metering for renewable energy sources rated 25 kilowatts (kW) and below for home use. Under the concept of net metering, consumers using an electric

Capacity apacit atti y factor or is the ratio tio off actual acctttuall electr elec Ca facct rra l ctttr p ity cto electricity elecctr triicit ould haav nerra e if a y that tha cco ity h att could o ld have h ve been b een generated gener be rated

sumers who do install renewable generators. Utilities are allowed to collect customer charges and minimum charges from individuals taking net metering, pay no more than avoided cost for energy produced in excess of actual use, and limit the amount of renewable generation subject to net metering to one percent of the electrical system’s average monthly peak demand. The most common question from consumers requesting information regarding wind turbines is; “How much money can I expect to save if I install a wind turbine?” Four or five years ago, the answer to that question was difficult to calculate. In an effort to help consumers, many e rural 2 electric systems developed physical e tur1 and economic models for wind bines. There was still no way e to be sure if the models produced results that reflected reality. Real World Experiences Lack of data is no longer a problem. The information reported in this article is based on the average production statistics of 10 wind tur-

Rural Electric Nebraskan


y Average ver Capacity Factor acto Av e erra age g C a apac ac orr p cit ciiitty F 24.0%

23.5% 23. 23 .5% 5%

21.2%

21.0%

20.3%

18 0% 18.0% 14.8% 12.7%

Au gu st Se pt em be r Oc tob er No ve mb er De ce mb er

Ju ly

Ju ne

Ma y

Ap r il

12.6%

ricity possible ricit y generated gener cco e to to the p ossi i ity ate ed as compared o p red ompar h maximum i oosssible iible ibl g rra po a turbine output turrb bine op e at at its or a sett period. erriiod iod. o p bi operated i maximum i ffo perrated pe p for pe

bines operating in the western half of Nebraska that came into service over a span of 42 months. The information is presented on a kWh per kW of capacity basis. Converting monthly production data for the wind turbines from “kWhs” to “kWhs per kW of capacity” allows the direct comparison of turbines of different sizes. A chart showing average production of electricity per month for all the turbines in service over the 42month study period appears above. As can be seen, the 10 wind turbines produced an average of 1,678 kWh annually per kW of capacity. About 25 percent of the energy was produced during the four summer months of June, July, August and September, while 75 percent was produced during the other eight months. Power produced during the summer is generally of more value than power produced during other months. Average monthly and annual capacity factors are calculated as well. Capacity factor is defined as the percentage of electricity actually

June 2012

generated, as compared to the amount that would have been produced if the wind had blown hard enough for the turbine to produce power at full capacity throughout a specified period of time. To achieve a monthly capacity factor of 100 percent, most small wind turbines would have to experience continuous winds between 25 and 30 mph for the month. The net-metered value of the electricity displaced annually by a wind turbine is largely dependent on cost of the electricity displaced. If the displaced electricity were worth nine cents per kilowatt-hour, a kilowatt of turbine capacity from the study would have expected to produce electricity worth about $151 on an annual basis. Someone expecting to recover their investment over 10 years could not have a net investment of more than about $1,510 per kW of turbine capacity. Yes, electric rates will probably increase, but the wind turbine may require maintenance, may increase your taxes and you may want to insure it.

For the two most common sizes of turbine, 2.4 kW and 10 kW, the maximum net investment for a 10-year return of the investment works out to about $3,600 and $15,100 respectively. A longer investment term should allow a higher investment if there are no significant maintenance/replacement issues. Once again, the numbers presented reflect the average “real-world” operating experience for 10 small wind turbines in Nebraska. Individual turbine performance will differ depending on a number of factors. The 10 turbines for which data is available are all located in parts of Nebraska west of US highway 281. Lessons Learned Turbine location and height relative to obstacles are important. The best performing turbine for 2011 (capacity factor of 24.1 percent) was only a few miles from the poorest performing turbine for 2011 (capacity factor of 9.6 percent). The best performing turbine produced 150 percent more energy than did the poorest performer. The poorest performer was in a valley; the best on a ridge above the same valley. Larger size does not guarantee better performance. The best performing (highest capacity factor) turbines for both 2010 and 2011 were 2.4 kW machines; a different one each year, but both were in the panhandle. A well-sited 10 kW machine in southern Nebraska came in second both years.

Capacity Factors 2010

2011

Site 1 22.2% Site Site Sit e 2 16.3% Site Sit e 3 22.0%

23.5% 15.8% 23.7%

Power production does vary from year to year. The chart above shows the capacity factor of turbines at three different sites for both 2010 and 2011. Two sites had improved Please turn to page 15

13


Copper theft remains a concern for utilities by Maurice Martin

But burying wires causes them to corrode. “[Buried] aluminum undergoes galvanic corrosion and can turn to dust in two years,” explains Emory Barber, director of cable & systems engineering at Southwire Company, one of the nation’s largest manufacturer of transmission lines. “Given the same conditions, copper can last 60 years or more.”

ook at a piece of copper, and you can see why it’s been popular with artists for 10,000 years. Its reddish-orange luster enhances jewelry and other decorative art. Ancient weapon makers also found it useful — axes with copper heads date back at least 5,000 years. More recently, engineers discovered that copper was an excellent conductor of electrical current. In the past few years, copper’s popularity has seen an uptick among another group: criminals. Whether it’s the tough economy or methamphetamine users needing money to pay for their next fix, the relatively high price of the metal has led to a wave of copper theft. The Electric Safety Foundation International (ESFI) estimates that there are more than 50,000 copper thefts from electrical utilities each year.

Not only does copper have a distinctive beauty that makes it popular for jewelry and decoration, but it also is an excellent conductor of electricity and a valuable scrap metal.

Substation Grounding Copper is swiped from many places, including construction sites, warehouses, and abandoned homes. In some areas, crooks drag away entire air-conditioning units so that they can remove the copper tubing at their leisure. But copper theft from utility poles and substations carries a particular concern. Copper energizes currentcarrying conductors (wires) as well as playing a key role in grounding. Substations — which contain expensive equipment for controlling the flow of electricity from high-voltage transmission lines to your home — must be grounded to the earth to prevent damage from lightning strikes and fault currents. When your rural electric utility grounds equipment in a substation, it makes an electrical connection to a buried network of wires, called a ground grid, that dissipates the excess charge safely over a wide area.

Despite the extreme danger that comes with entering a substation, the copper wire inside makes for an attractive target — all a thief has to do is make a couple of cuts and get out. For the relatively small value of the stolen copper, crooks leave a mess that can be very expensive to clean up. ESFI estimates the value of copper stolen from utilities each year — whether grounding wire substations, grounding wires off poles, or even power lines themselves — to be about $20 million. But the financial impact can run three times that amount. And when copper bandits strike, not-for-profit rural electric systems have no choice but to pass the replacement costs on to their members. A substation or pole that’s left ungrounded becomes a dangerous place. Sometimes the thieves touch or cut the wrong conductors, exposing themselves to lethally high volt-

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ages. Errant currents can damage electrical equipment, taking the substation or line “down” and interrupting power to consumers. The electricity can even endanger utility employees, causing injury or death. ESFI estimates about 35 Americans die each year because of copper or other metal theft. Foiling Thieves Southwire has addressed copper theft with a cable it calls Proof Positive. This product comes etched with a unique identifying code, serial number, and a website address that scrap dealers can visit to see if the copper has been heisted. “The Proof Positive system enables recyclers to identify the material as stolen and alert law enforcement, often resulting in an arrest and conviction,” says Charles Holcombe, senior product development engineer with Southwire. To prevent theft before it happens, rural electric utilities have embarked on multi-pronged initiatives. Many have launched intensive public relations campaigns about the issue; others have partnered with local Crime Solvers chapters and posted rewards. Some systems are replacing much of the purloined wire with copper-clad steel. Copperclad steel, which has been around since 1915, boasts the electricitycarrying properties of copper but contains very little scrap value. Although bendable, it can’t be cut and removed with normal tools — even hydraulic bolt cutters. Also, keep in mind that no one should be in an electric utility substation except trained employees. Report any suspicious activity to local law enforcement and your rural electric utility. Your diligence can help stop criminals and may even save a life. Maurice Martin is a senior program manager for the Cooperative Research Network, a service of the Arlington, Va.-based National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

Rural Electric Nebraskan


Home-Scale Wind Turbines From page 13 capacity factors for 2011 while one saw a decline. Small wind turbines are not cost competitive (without significant incentives). The 10 turbines produced an average of 1,678 kWh per kW of capacity annually. The very best performer produced an average of 2,000 kWh per kW of capacity annually. The installed cost of new small wind turbines will usually range from $5,000 to $6,000 per kW of capacity. At an installed cost of $5,000 per kW, the average turbine from the study could produce electric power at a cost as low as $0.30 per kWh during the first 10 years. If annual electricity production averages 2,000 kWh per kW (equal to the best performing turbine in the study), the annual cost of the electricity produced could be as low as $0.25 per kWh during the first 10 years. Operating longer than 10 years could reduce the average cost per kWh produced significantly provided maintenance and ownership costs are low enough. Tax incentives equal to 30 percent of the cost would reduce the cost of power produced to 21 and 18 cents per kWh in the above scenarios. On the other hand, spending $6,000 per kW to install a turbine as compared to the $5,000 value used in the above example would raise the cost of the power produced by 20 percent. There are reasons, other than economics, to install a wind turbine. All technologies have a learning curve. Home-scale wind turbines have been manufactured for over 30 years. Improvements have been made and will, no doubt, continue to be made if individuals are willing to install and operate turbines in varying “realworld” situations. Nebraska’s electric systems stand ready to assist consumers interested in advancing the technology. Max Van Skiver is the General Manager of South Central PPD in Nelson, Neb.

June 2012

Will solar power work on my site? olar systems harness the power of sunlight to create electricity. They have become increasingly popular in recent years as the price of electricity has increased. Though costs have come down, photovoltaic systems are still quite expensive, and the energy they produce costs several times that of utility-supplied energy. Solar systems are most commonly installed on the roofs of homes, garages, carports, and other structures. But they can also be installed vertically against a wall of a home, as part of an awning, or near the ground as a free-standing structure. Some sites perform better than others for producing photovoltaic power. The size and orientation of your home, the presence of shade, and possible zoning restrictions all affect the location of a solar system. A solar system will produce the most power when it is exposed to sunshine for as

S

long as possible each day. Any shading, from trees or an adjoining building, will reduce the system’s output. But a little shade is acceptable, especially if it crosses the photovoltaic panels early or late in the day. Shading issues are usually the worst in the winter when the sun’s altitude is lowest and shadows are the longest. For many building owners, the roof is the preferred site for a solar array because it is out of the way, close to the existing electrical system, and above many objects that cast shade. Most rooftop systems are mounted on racks that stand above the roof. These racks can hold solar panels at either the same slope as the roof surface, or at a steeper angle that optimizes the exposure to incoming solar energy. Rooftop systems can also utilize solar “shingles,” thin-film modules that take the place of standard roofing shingles.

15


SAFETY BRIEFS

Make sure you are ready to enjoy summer safely oungsters are eager to say goodbye to school for the summer, suit up and jump in the backyard pool, play in the sprinkler or spray their playmates with water from a garden hose. Whether it’s fun around home, at a nearby park, or other gathering place, be alert for potential electrical hazards, make repairs or upgrades where necessary and make sure everyone knows how to play safely. “The loss of a family member is devastating, and all family members should be on the lookout for potential danger,” says Molly Hall, program executive director. “Remember the story of 12-year-old Caitlyn Mackenzie, who had enjoyed a day of swimming and was electrocuted as she attempted to move an electric lamp. Her tragic accident underscores the importance of ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection on outdoor outlets, as well as avoiding contact with electrical appliances when you are damp or wet.“ If you have water sprites around your home this summer, protect them with either permanent GFCIs, or extension cords with a GFCI to ensure their safety.

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16

For safe outdoor play, Safe Electricity recommends that children and adults follow these rules: • Water and electricity never mix! Keep electronics like radios away from pools and hot tubs, and watch for overhead power lines when cleaning pools, sailing or fishing. Never install pools underneath or near power lines. Never touch an electrical appliance if you are wet; always dry off completely. • Stay away from electrical equipment on the ground and overhead. Never climb a utility pole or tower. Don’t play on or around pad-mounted electrical equipment. Electrical power poles and utility equipment should never be used as a playground. • Never climb trees near power lines. Even if the power lines aren’t touching the tree, they could touch when more weight is added to the branch. • Fly kites and model airplanes safely away from trees and overhead power lines. If a kite gets tangled in a tree that’s near power lines, don’t climb up to get it. Contact your electric utility for assistance. • Never go into an electric substa-

tion. Electric substations contain high-voltage equipment, which can kill you. Don’t retrieve a toy or rescue a pet that goes inside. Call your electric utility instead. • Look up and around you. Always be aware of the location of power lines, particularly when using long metal tools like ladders and pool skimmers. “Use caution when plugging in electrical appliances outdoors,” says Hall. “Such handy items as radios or bug zappers can generate an electric shock. Exterior outlets should have weather proof covers as well as GFCIs to prevent serious injuries. Electrical items should be kept at least 10 feet away from water or wet surfaces, like wet or dew-covered grass.” Summertime brings storms that can sometimes create danger from both lightning and fallen power lines, Hall says. “It’s a good idea to keep utility emergency numbers close at hand and know what to do after a storm.” If you see a downed power line stay far away from it and anything touching it. Call your electric utility. Source: SafeElectricity.org

Rural Electric Nebraskan


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CUT YOUR UTILITY BILLS

Block heat flow for cooler rooms by James Dulley

though I think my house Q :isEven adequately insulated, my air conditioner runs a lot. On sunny days, the bedroom ceiling seems hot, so I assume heat is coming from the hot roof. How can I reduce this heat flow? : Adequate attic insulation is

A only one aspect of keeping your

house cool and reducing your airconditioning costs. By “insulation,” most folks mean thermal insulation that blocks heat conduction. This includes fiberglass, rock wool, foam, and/or cellulose insulation on the attic floor and in the walls. There are three modes of heat transfer — conduction, convection, and radiation. Conduction refers to heat flow typically through solid materials. This is how the handle of a metal skillet gets hot on the stove. Convection is similar to conduction, but occurs in fluids and gases. This is why you feel colder in the wind than in still air.

Regular thermal insulation in your home’s walls and ceiling, which you refer to, blocks conduction and convection heat losses. Most recommended insulation charts, which mention R-values, refer to thermal insulation. The third mode of heat flow, radiation, is how the sun heats the Earth or you feel warm in front of an open fireplace. Unfortunately, standard thermal insulation is not very effective for blocking this type of heat flow. On a hot summer afternoon, a roof, especially a dark asphalt shingle one, gets extremely hot. This heat then radiates downward through the attic floor insulation and into your house. You can tell if the ceiling is hotter than the walls just by putting the back of your hand against it in the afternoon. If it really feels much warmer, this may be a major reason for high electric bills. Even with your air conditioner running and air in the room reasonably cool, you may still feel uncomfortable under a warm ceiling. This heat often causes you to set the air conditioner thermostat even lower, which further increases your electric bills. Roll-out continuous attic ridge vent has many passages for the air to flow out of the hottest part of the attic. Photograph provided by Lomanco

This schematic shows the hot air flow from an attic through a rigid-type rigid vent. Notice it is covered with shingles for a nice appearance. Photograph provided by Cor-A-Vent If your house will need a new roof soon, replace it with light-colored — preferably white — shingles to reduce the roof temperature. Metal roofs, particularly aluminum ones with heat-reflective (not visibly reflective) paint, stay even cooler and minimize heat transfer down to the ceiling below. Other than replacing the roof, adding more insulation and adequate attic ventilation can help significantly. When I installed more attic vents in my own home, I could immediately feel the difference in my second-floor bedroom temperature. Putting in extra insulation will also cool ceilings that meet attic space because it blocks heat transfer. Attic vents, continuous ridge or inlet soffit, work best. This allows cool air to move low over the insulation, become less dense as it warms up, and then flow out the ridge vent. Your attic and roof will still be hot, but extra insulation and ventilation will help cool the living space underneath your attic.

Send inquiries to James Dulley, Rural Electric Nebraskan, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com.

18

Rural Electric Nebraskan


Use a dehumidifier wisely to save energy dollars nyone from Nebraska can tell you that our summers can be hot. If they are from the eastern half of the state, they can also tell you that humidity makes those summer days feel even hotter. In addition to being uncomfortable, high humidity levels can adversely affect your health. Excess moisture can contribute to an unhealthy environment in your home, even in the winter. Dust mites, molds, bacteria and other organisms that can cause respiratory problems thrive in moisture-ridden, high humidity areas. Some signs that excess moisture is present include condensation on windows during colder months, peeling wallpaper and damp patches on walls and ceilings. Using a dehumidifier decreases the humidity in your home and helps decrease the occurrence of moisture-loving predators -- making your home healthier and more comfortable. Running a dehumidifier comes with a cost, however. The monthly expense will often run from $15 to $35 in summer, but it can exceed $50 per month if the dehumidifier runs a lot. Here are some ideas of how you can manage humidity problems and save money at the same time. • Set the humidistat so the dehumidifier does not run continuously. For basements, 50 percent relative humidity is recommended in summer. • Help reduce peak electric use. Put your dehumidifier on the night shift! Put a timer on your dehumidifier to turn it on at 9 p.m. and off at 10 a.m. • Close all windows and doors to the area. This will dramatically reduce the humidity coming from outside air. • Locate the dehumidifier in the area with the highest humidity but don’t create a safety hazard by placing it in water. Dehumidifiers are not the solution to standing water (or running water) in basements.

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June 2012

• Position the dehumidifier away from the wall or furniture so air can circulate through the unit. • Hook up a hose to drain the dehumidifier if emptying the tank is a chore. • Frost can form on the coils and reduce dehumidification when the room temperature drops below 65 F. Frost can also form when the dew point is low. If frost forms, turn off the machine until the frost melts.

• Keep the dehumidifier clean. Wipe or vacuum dust and dirt from the coils and fan. • If you have a choice of fan speeds, higher speeds are more efficient while lower speeds are quieter. During winter, relative humidity between 25 percent and 40 percent is recommended. In colder weather, humidity toward the lower end of this range is better for reducing condensation and mold growth. Cold outdoor temperatures often require indoor humidity lower than 40 percent to prevent condensation on windows. Finally, when you are shopping for a dehumidifier, purchase one of the Energy Star qualified models that have more efficient refrigeration coils, compressors, and fans than conventional models. An Energy Star qualified model removes the same amount of moisture as a similarly-sized conventional unit, but uses 15 percent less energy. For other ideas on how you can become more EnergyWise, visit with your local electric utility or visit www.nppd.com/save-energy.

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19


DOWN HOME

RECIPES

Almond Chicken 2 whole raw chicken breasts, cut into strips 1/4 cup oil 2 (5 oz) cans bamboo shoots, diced and drained 2 cups diced celery 2 (5 oz) cans water chestnuts,

drained and sliced 3 cups chicken broth 2 tablespoons soy sauce 1/3 cup cornstarch mixed in 1/2 cup cold water 1/2 cup toasted almonds, sliced, halved or slivered

In large skillet, quickly cook chicken in hot oil. Add bamboo shoots, celery, water, chestnuts, broth and soy sauce. Bring to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat 5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Blend cornstarch in water and add to chicken mixture. Cook until thickens and bubbles. Salt to taste. Garnish with almonds. Serves 6.

Deanne Cooper, Oshkosh, Nebraska

Cucumber Dip

Southwestern Kabobs 4 boneless top loin pork chops, cut into 1-inch cubes 4 tablespoons taco or fajita seasoning 1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces 1/2 large onion peeled & cut into 1-inch pieces In a plastic bag or shallow bowl, toss together pork cubes with desired seasoning until pork is evenly coated. Thread pork cubes, alternating with pepper and onion pieces, onto skewers. Grill over a medium-hot fire, turning occasionally, until pork is nicely browned. If using wooden skewers, soak in water for 20 minutes before using.

Recipe provided by the National Pork Board

1 cup plain yogurt 1/2 cup sour cream 1/2 teaspoon white pepper 1 small cucumber peeled, seeded and diced 1 tablespoon dill weed

1 tablespoon grated onion 1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste 1 tablespoon white vinegar or dill pickle juice 1 tablespoon olive oil

Mix all together and serve with vegetables, chips or crackers. Also makes a nice dressing for a cold roast beef sandwich.

Elizabeth Poss, Scotia, Nebraska

Banana Oat Breakfast Cookies 1 1/2 cup flour 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon salt 3/4 cup butter 1 cup sugar

1 egg 1 3/4 cup old-fashioned oatmeal 1 cup mashed banana (2-3 bananas) 1/2 cup chopped nuts or chocolate chips (optional)

Blend flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt together into a large bowl. Set aside. Cream butter and sugar in an electric mixer bowl. Beat in egg and mix thoroughly. Stir in oats, bananas, and nuts/chips. Add flour mixture and stir. Drop dough by spoonful onto ungreased cookie sheet, about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake in preheated oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Makes 24-32 cookies.

Jolene Block, Cozad, Nebraska

20

Rural Electric Nebraskan


Look for Adult Pen Pals next month ue to a low number of submissions sent in by readers for use in the June issue of the Rural Electric Nebraskan, no Adult Pen Pals submissions will be printed this month. Submissions sent for use in the June issue will appear in the July2011 issue of the magazine instead. It is the policy of the Rural Electric Nebraskan to run Adult Pen Pal submissions only when at least six letters have been received by the Nebraska Rural Electric Association office in a given month. The Rural Electric Nebraskan Adult Pen Pal Service is exclusively for member-readers ages 18 and over. Adult Pen Pal submissions can be sent to Rural Electric Nebraskan Adult Pen Pal Service, P.O. Box 82048, Lincoln, NE 68501.

D

To appear in print The Rural Electric Nebraskan Adult Pen Pal Service is exclusively for member-readers ages 18 and over. To be considered for use, submissions must: (1) Identify rural electric system providing magazine; (2) Include $6 to cover mail forwarding costs; (3) Be 25 words or fewer; (4) Include full name and mailing address (will not be used in magazine); and (5) Be first person, submitted directly by person to receive responses. Acceptance, editing and issue scheduling is at editor’s discretion. Address all submissions to Rural Electric Nebraskan Adult Pen Pal Service, P.O. Box 82048, Lincoln, NE 68501. All responses received by the Adult Pen Pal Service are routed directly, postage paid, to the response number assigned to each submission. To write To respond to one of the adult pen pal requests, write letter, place in envelope, seal and affix first class postage. Address to full, correct response #, c/o Rural Electric Nebraskan Adult Pen Pal Service, P.O. Box 82048, Lincoln, NE 68501. Your letter will be forwarded unopened. Do not send money or additional postage; forwarding is prepaid. Enclose your full mailing address for return correspondence. Once again . . . it is very important that all responses carry the full response number—both month and number—to be properly forwarded. Abbreviation Code C — Christian; C/W — Country-western; D — Divorced; F — Female; M — Male; NS — Non-Smoker; ND — Non-Drinker; R&R — Rock and roll; S — Single; W — White; Wid — Widowed

June 2012

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Rural Electric Nebraskan


ELECTRICITY HAS THE POWER TO BRING PEOPLE TOGETHER. THE SAME GOES FOR ELECTRIC CO-OPS. As consumer-owned electric co-ops, it’s in our best interest to work together. After all, we’re owned by the people we serve. So we want what everyone wants: affordable, reliable electricity. Tri-State generates and transmits electricity to our 44 member co-ops who, in turn, serve more than 1.5 million people across a 200,000 square-mile territory. And we do so with an eye on the future, managing resources and making decisions based on the highest value to families and businesses at the end of the line. After all, we were formed with that spirit of cooperation in mind.

www.tristate.coop

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association • P.O. Box 33695 • Denver, CO 80233 • Wholesale power supplier to 44 electric cooperatives in Colorado, New Mexico, Nebraska and Wyoming.


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Profile for Nebraska Rural Electric Association

Rural Electric Nebraskan  

The Rural Electric Nebraskan (REN) has been published since January 1947. The role of the REN is to chronicle the benefits and challenges of...

Rural Electric Nebraskan  

The Rural Electric Nebraskan (REN) has been published since January 1947. The role of the REN is to chronicle the benefits and challenges of...

Profile for reneditor