Alternative Energy in Sublette County
Daniel Rancher Charles Price talks about the solar heating wall and wind mill he uses at his ranch. He was one of six speakers at a public meeting about alternative energy hosted by the Sublette County Conservation District at the Pinedale Library.
by Dawn Ballou, Pinedale Online!
March 8, 2010
The Sublette County Conservation District sponsored a "Landowners and Alternative Energy Workshop" at the Sublette County Library in Pinedale on Monday evening, in cooperation with the University of Wyoming and Sublette County Cooperative Extension Office.
Six local ranchers told the audience the ways they are using wind and solar power systems to either supplement or completely provide power systems for their homes and ranches. Speakers were Milton Geiger from the University of Wyoming, and area residents Charles Price, Dan McClure, Kevin Rutsch, Jamie Burgess and Cotton Bousman.
Milton Geiger, Economist and Energy Extension Coordinator with the University of Wyoming, said volatile energy policies of the government could change energy costs in the future. He discussed small wind, solar, geothermal and small hydroelectric options for thermal converting to "harvest your own energy." He said a residential wind turbine typically can cost up to $20,000 and have a payback period of 15 years. He said there are programs available from the government and energy utility companies offering incentives to insulate, install energy efficient new appliances, and install renewable energy equipment.
Daniel Rancher Charles Price installed a solar wall when he built his house. He has installed clear and solar glass along a south-facing wall which transmits solar energy into a three foot dead air space backed by a one foot concrete wall which absorbs the solar radiation. The three foot buffer room stays warm enough in the winter that his wife is able to put tomato plants in there and get tomatoes all winter long. Last summer, Price also installed a wind turbine near his house, which cost around $14,000, including a rebate. It supplies about 6% of their household electric energy needs. He has had about a 1.34% return in the past 6 months on his $14,000 investment in the wind turbine, "Better than my investment in AIG." Priceís son, Kent, is now a dealer for wind turbines for homes and businesses.
Dan McClure has been off-grid for two years on a solar and generator system. "Iíll never go back," he said. "Weíre self-sufficient and donít rely on the electric company." He said they live a normal life with a TV, VCR, computer and all the normal conveniences. They use a generator backup and have batteries that can last 2-3 days. He said his system only requires a couple of hours a month for maintenance on the batteries.
Kevin Rutsch said it is important to orient the house to take advantage of solar gain, use energy-efficient appliances and have good insulation.
Jamie Burges lives in the Upper Green. He has been using a small solar system set-up for 15 years. "Weíve only lost power twice," he said. When homes in their area lose power due to a power company electricity failure, their home still has lights and power. "You have to watch your usage of electricity so you donít run your batteries down," he said. "These things are really good," he said. "They work great."
Rancher Cotton Bousman lives east of Boulder, towards Big Sandy. He operates ten 1950s vintage wood windmills on his BLM desert allotment which are used to pump water for cattle during the summer. He said the wooden windmills have been very maintenance intensive. In 2007, he upgraded two of the old wooden windmill towers to solar systems which utilize 2 to 3 solar panels. The panels are installed on a portable trailer that is brought in during the summer months and removed in the fall. "They are maintenance free," he said. One system with two solar panels cost about $9,000 and the other with three panels cost $10,000. He said they have been so reliable he sometimes forgets to check them as often as he should.
Bousman said they let the pumps run all the time so the water overflows and creates a green area out on the desert, which benefits antelope and sage grouse in the vicinity. He said the wooden windmill towers are a nesting and perching structure used by ravens and birds which prey on sage grouse, so removing the towers has reduced predation. Bousman went through a company called Pronghorn Pump & Repair out of Glenrock, Wyoming for his solar equipment.
Another system Cotton has installed was for his stock water tank. He dug a big hole about 15 feet deep and buried a big pipe on end into the ground. Leaving the pipe empty inside, he put on a concrete lid cover and then put the stock tank on top of it. The warm air from the ground rises up in the pipe and in the winter is enough heat to help keep the water in the tank from freezing. He has an electric tank heater also in the tank, set on a timer for the coldest times. "The tank never froze," he said. This has significantly reduced the electricity consumption needed to operate the stock tank heater in the winter because the heater isnít running all the time.
Contacts for more information on alternative energy options:
Energy Extension Coordinator
College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Cooperative Extension Service
University of Wyoming
West Mountain Wind & Solar
Wind turbines for home or business
Kent C. Price
Dealer for Skystream wind turbines
1801 W. Route 66
Flagstaff, Arizona 86001
Pronghorn Pump and Repair
Scott Blakeley, Owner / Certified Pump Installer
P O Box 1558, 44 Sage Hill Road
Glenrock, Wyoming 82637
Office 307-436-8513 Fax 307-436-2828
Robinson Solar Systems
Weatherford, Oklahoma 73096
Toll Free: 866-519-7892
American Wind Energy Association
Renewable Energy Atlas of the West
U.S. Department of Energy
Solar Estimator and Solar/Wind Contractors
Sublette County Conservation District
1625 W. Pine Street (Stromness Building)
PO Box 36
Pinedale, WY 82941