Wind power and conservation go hand in hand at High Hopes Gardens

Wind power and conservation go hand in hand at High Hopes Gardens

By Mark Runquist
Skystream owner since 2008

I like to think that raising our residential wind turbine on our small Marshall County, Iowa farm was a harbinger for the new 52 turbine wind farm that now stretches to within a couple miles of our pioneer turbine. It’s not hard to imagine our lonely turbine was excited to see some friends on the horizon. Our turbine is not only a way for us to provide for some of our own electrical needs, but as a statement of our values we hold as a family.

High Hopes Gardens

A few years ago we were involved in the work to prevent a coal-fired power plant from being built in our county. However well-intentioned we may have been to oppose the plant, the fact of the matter was that every day we were using electricity that was produced by similar coal-fired plants. We thought that we should advocate for a “yes” solution rather than a “no” solution.

Skystream covers half our energy needs

Enter the Southwest Windpower Skystream wind turbine. As I write this, the turbine is cranking out 3,000 watts of power. All the energy to run the computer and household lights at the moment is coming from our turbine. Last year the turbine produced about half of our electricity. Since we’re installed it about three years ago, it’s prevented the release of about six tons of CO2.

Month kWh Produced
by Turbine
kWh Used by
Jan ’11 401 1010
Feb ’11 356 823
Mar ’11 498 839
April ’11 622 814
May ’11 561 690
June ’11 399 808
July ’11 120 1028
Aug ’11 105 880
Sept ’11 191 809
Oct ’11 380 640
Nov ’11 555 792
Dec ’11 455 1012
2011 Totals 4643 10145

The turbine was yet another step we took to sustainability. We collect thousands of gallons of water from our outbuilding roofs, we grow a substantial portion of our own food, and now produce our own energy. The turbine has gathered us a small measure of notoriety. The turbine was part or all of the reason “Living the Country Life” TV show featured our farm, as did and a portion in the documentary “Ecoheartland” in addition to other media outlets.

Conservation adds up

As rewarding as it all is, there’s a secret I’d like to share. The turbine hasn’t been the cause of the biggest drop in our utility bills. About three years before we installed the turbine, we made a concerted effort to reduce our energy use. We swapped light bulbs, bought energy efficient dishwasher, washing machine and other appliances, turned off the overhead yard light in favor of motion-detecting outdoor lights, and made some other simple choices like replacing a broken coffee maker with one with an insulated carafe instead of a hotplate to keep the coffee warm.

In looking over our utility bills, compared to the previous years with no conservation efforts, our electrical use dropped 265 kWh a month after beginning the conservation efforts. Our usage after the turbine continues to drop, another 228 kWh/month. So, due to conservation efforts, our monthly electrical use dropped an average of 493 kWh/month. Some of that drop is probably due to one child moving out of the home a year and half ago, but even with the same number of people, our use dropped significantly.

So how much does the turbine produce? Last year it produced an average of 387kWh/month, which is less than the 493 kWh/ month we saved from conservation! The conservation efforts cost substantially less than the wind turbine. Though I have absolutely no regrets about installing the turbine, the key lesson here that is not on the forefront in our current energy discussion is the efficacy of energy conservation in reducing the need for new power plants. So even if you don’t have the space or ability to put up a turbine, you can do something even more powerful.

If you’d like to see more pictures of the installation, some of the technical details, and production statistics, visit

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