Cindy Decker was ten years old when her father bought the farm near Byron, Wisconsin. Cindy and her husband Doug have farmed it since 1973. At ninety-five acres, sixty-five tillable, it's a small farm. Year to year they alternate crops of corn and soybeans. Both Doug and Cindy have other jobs, but they still feel close to the land and part of the local farming community.
The Niagara Escarpment crosses the Decker farm, creating an unusual topography that can be challenging to a farming operation. Cindy explains, "Because it's on a ledge, our farm holds water. We are one of the last farms to dry out." Doug adds, "We're one of the last ones to plant because the moisture can't go down, it has to evaporate." The Deckers could quarry their piece of the Escarpment as others in the area have done, but they'd rather farm the wind than sell their stone. Once the turbines have served their useful life the foundations can be removed, and the site easily restored, or new turbines could be erected.
It was the shape of the land and the Escarpment that brought the Deckers the opportunity for wind power. In 1993, Bob Owen, a consulting engineer and meteorologist approached them about erecting a temporary 10-meter (about 30 feet) tower to measure the wind speed on top of the ridge.
Bob had a grant from the state-managed Renewable Energy Assistance Program to monitor wind speeds at a number of places around Wisconsin, including two along the Escarpment in Door County. He had noted that the 1148-foot elevation of the Decker farm and the shape of the upslope to the top of the hill made it a prime site for wind turbines.
Doug and Cindy were intrigued. For three and a half years they took monthly anemometer readings and sent the results to Bob by postcard. His final report confirmed the quality of the wind resource on the ridge, and how it compared with other areas in the state. Based on the readings at thirty feet, he calculated that wind speed at 150 feet would be a steady 14 miles per hour. "He said we were tied for the windiest, if not the windiest (site), with Door County in the Brussels area," Cindy said.
About a year later We Energies expressed interest in the Deckers' hilltop field. They were looking at three other sites in the area as well, and sent their Project Manager to work with Byron's residents including the Town Board and other officials. They were able to tour the wind turbine installation near De Pere to see the turbines up-close, listen to noise relative to traffic, and to ask questions.
Ultimately, the Deckers' site was chosen. "Our site was selected, being high the way it is," Doug explains. The turbines have added a new dimension to life on the Decker farm. They have become a landmark which has proven handy. The year after they were built, Cindy says, "We needed a custom combine that year and all we had to do was say our farm's (the one) with the wind turbines, and he says 'I know exactly how to get there.'"
The motion and operation of the turbines tells them a lot about the wind. "We're amazed at how many different positions they maintain during the day. We thought the wind was always constant, continual. But it isn't," says Cindy. "Today the wind is stronger. It's out of the east today which is unusual wind." Doug adds, "And maybe this afternoon it will change."
Then Doug tells a story about one of their neighbors, and how he has come to rely on the turbines to tell him about the wind direction. "He gets out and he looks at the turbines, first to see if they're turning. Well, it's windy. Okay, what direction are they coming from? Then he knows what direction to go out spreading manure so he doesn't get covered on the tractor!"
To learn more about incentives and grants, visit www.we-energies.com/RE and click on 'Customer-Owned Generation.'