Our American-style windmill has been a landmark on our field since 2002, when Peter had it shipped over from Amarillo, Texas. It is designed to pump water but we would really like to use it to generate electricity on our farm. We are not connected to the grid and the small amount of solar power we have is not very effective in the winter months. Our mission of harnessing wind power at the farm began!
In September 2021, we contacted the Electrical and Mechanical Engineering Department at Bristol University. Two third-year students took on the project of finding a way to convert the windmill into a wind turbine generator.
The windmill project
It has been really interesting seeing how the project has developed. The principle of imagining our farm as a mini-grid and thinking about what we needed electricity for was useful. For example, it would be helpful to have some lighting for the car park in the late afternoon and to be able to charge our electric saws. Otherwise, we realised we feel quite self-sufficient off the grid. We hope the project will continue this academic year as there is still some way to go before any conversion can take place. But one day we would love the windmill to power some Christmas Tree Lights on some of our grandest and tallest Norwegian Spruce and Nordmann Fir Christmas trees!
Using natural resources
In the meantime, while that project is ongoing, we are looking into purchasing a wind turbine for the barn. (Here is what the department of energy has to say about installing wind turbines). There is a steady supply of wind during the winter months when we are open selling Christmas trees. So this seems more practical than relying on the solar panels we currently have, which don’t produce much power in the weeks we need it. We don’t water our Christmas trees, but we have now fitted two large water butts to collect water for our pot-grown trees. And we are able to use tree stumps to fuel the woodburner at night during the selling season. These are all ways we are working with natural resources to be as energy efficient as possible.