Courtland brothers promote wind energy systems for residential use
By Deb Hadachek Belleville Telescope editor
It’s a technology as old as the hills.
But brothers Ethan Mahin and Caleb Mahin, Courtland natives, hope to convince rural residents that wind energy is worth a new look for homes, farms and businesses.
In October, the Mahins erected their first wind turbine at the farm home of Jon and Lisa Russell, Courtland, located on K-266 south of the Pawnee Indian Village State Historic Site. The Russells hope their 100’ turbine reduces their energy costs on their all-electric home.
“This is something my husband and I have wanted to do for a while to help with the electricity bill,” Mrs. Russell says. “We’re up on a hill where we get a lot of wind.”
Mrs. Russell said that they experience not only high energy bills in the summer for air conditioning, but high bills in the winter for heat.
“We believe it will pay for itself within 10 years,” she said. “We’re anxious for the next six months’ bills to see what the difference will be.”
Caleb Mahin said the 100’ tower that the Russells chose should help the couple recoup their installation costs within eight years.
“You get more consistent wind with a higher tower,” he said.
The Mahin brothers partnered to form NCK Wind Energy, a business they hope to someday expand to include other forms of green energy, like solar power. Caleb Mahin is a crop insurance agent; Ethan Mahin is a wind tech for Vestas at the Meridian Way wind farm south of Concordia.
“With Ethan’s experience at the wind farm and education in the wind program at Cloud County Community College, we decided to apply for a dealership,” Caleb said.
Earlier generations of Republic County residents relied on windmills to help pump water. The average wind speed in North Central Kansas is 13 to 14 miles per hour.
The Russells turbine is part of the Prairie Land rural electric grid. Caleb says that every kilowatt of electricity produced by the Russells’ turbine, Prairie Land will subtract one kilowatt from their electric bill. Although they will still have a bill from Prairie Land, Caleb said the goal is “that they only pay the minimum.”
The Russells still have access to Prairie Land energy if the wind isn’t blowing, Caleb said. Systems are available that work off the electric grid and store excess power in batteries, he said.
The Russells’ 10kw turbine is the largest produced by Bergey, the Norman OK company that produces the turbines the Mahins’ install. The generator is designed to produce 24,000 kwh per year.
Through 2016, the federal government offers a 30 percent tax credit on the total cost of green energy projects, Caleb says: not only wind, but geothermal systems or energy efficient windows. In addition, USDA Rural Development offers a 25 percent grant for systems for non-residential farm buildings and rural businesses.
Caleb said owners also do not pay property taxes on green energy resources. “This allows the owner to increase the value of their property without increasing their property tax,” he said.
“We have been talking with a farmer at Solomon who uses a wind turbine to power an irrigation well and a pivot,” he says.
The Mahins said they hope the technology offered by Bergey, which requires no scheduled maintenance, will help change perceptions of wind turbines.
“Some people have had bad experiences with refurbished turbines or less expensive models,” Caleb says. “If they don’t work, that scares everyone off.”
Caleb said another Bergey turbine was installed on a farm southwest of Courtland by Bill Henken, now owned by Randy Erickson. Ethan serviced that generator, which led the brothers to pursue a Bergey dealership.
Caleb said they have researched places that combine solar and wind energy resources. “On days it’s nice and sunny, it’s not as windy,” he says. “When it’s cloudy, it’s also more windy. In theory, you could produce electricity all the time.”