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Energy

1 turbine at a time, Findlay business cashes in on wind

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  • One-Energy-LLC-oversees-construction
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One Energy LLC oversees construction of a 1.5-megawatt turbine at Cooper Farms, a turkey producer in Paulding County. The turbine is expected to generate up to 65 percent of the site's power.

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FINDLAY -- Jereme Kent will leave others to debate the politics of large-scale wind farms. He's happy working one by one.

Mr. Kent is the general manager of One Energy LLC, a fledgling company based in Findlay that is focused on bringing utility-size wind power to private businesses as a way to offset utility costs.

As it turns out, northern Ohio is a great place to do it.

"If you drew a line from Dayton to Ashtabula, north of that line can do a pretty good job of taking advantage of wind. South of that line it's a little harder to be economical at this point," Mr. Kent said.

One Energy started in southwest Minnesota a little more than two years ago and moved to Findlay in January, 2011.

Mr. Kent, who has been working on wind-energy projects six years, said the company chose to make the move because of Ohio's wind potential and the state's rules that allow companies to use private production to fully offset their electric needs.

One of the company's early customers was the family-owned Cooper Farms, one of the nation's largest turkey producers.

Cooper Farms, headquartered in Paulding County, spent a little more than $5 million to purchase and install two 1.5-megawatt turbines at the company's cooked-meats facility north of Van Wert.

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A rotor is attached to a wind turbine that produces energy for Cooper Farms in Paulding County.

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"We have a full program throughout our company to try to come up with resource-reducing, sustainability types of projects, so when you combine everything together, even though it was a large investment and nothing's guaranteed, we decided to go ahead with it," said Gary Cooper, one of the company's owners.

The two turbines were projected to generate 60 to 65 percent of the electricity needed at the facility, with Cooper Farms recouping those initial costs in about five years.

With proper maintenance, the turbines should generate power for 20 years.

Cooper Farms was so pleased with the results of the two turbines -- they're on pace to save about $650,000 on that facility's electric bill this year -- that officials decided to go forward with a third turbine.

Work on that is planned to begin next week.

"It appears it's going to be a good deal for the company and obviously for the environment," Mr. Cooper said.

In addition to the offset in energy costs, the company receives energy credits that it can auction off to other companies, Mr. Cooper said.

One Energy has a project under way at Haviland Plastics in Paulding County and is to begin work at Kalida Manufacturing in Putnam County next year.

The company has worked exclusively with Toledo-based industrial contractor RMF Nooter to install the turbines. Although RMF hadn't previously worked on wind turbines, the contractor's expertise with big projects, crane work, heavy equipment, and electrical controls made it a natural fit, general manager Mike Pollauf said.

When they say big projects, they mean big.

The turbines that One Energy uses are full-size utility-scale units that stretch 421 feet into the sky, including the blade.

The size and cost can be prohibitive, but for companies with significant energy needs and the necessary real estate, a wind turbine can almost sell itself.

"It's a good fit for the right situation," Mr. Pollauf said. "Our thought for our company is very similar to that. It's a good fit for us to those situations and we'd be happy to continue putting up wind turbines around the area and the region. We're looking to continue to do that with One Energy."

Advances in turbine design allow for more viable power generation at lower wind speeds. One Energy is using turbines that start generating power with winds of 6 to 8 mph and max out at 20 to 25 mph.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at: tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.

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