LINDSAY — It was between the wind and sun, and for Don Gasper, and the sun was the “bright idea.”
The 77-year-old farms a half-section northeast of Lindsay, raising corn and soybeans, and he is powering his farm and home with solar panels he had erected on his land.
A solar panel works by allowing photons, or particles of light, to knock electrons free from atoms, generating a flow of electricity.
Solar panels actually comprise many, smaller units called photovoltaic cells. Photovoltaic means they convert sunlight into electricity.
Solar-powered photovoltaic (PV) panels convert the sun’s rays into electricity by exciting electrons in silicon cells using the photons of light from the sun.
His monthly electric bill, which topped $300 at times over the years, could possibly dwindle to the point that Elkhorn Rural Public Power District may owe him.
He said about 12 years ago, he starting looking into wind turbines, and at that time there were just two in the state, around Springview.
There are now close to 1,000 turbines in the state, but as Gasper researched turbines and solar panels, he decided to install the panels.
“I wanted to go with a wind turbine, and I thought about it and thought about, and decided they were a little noisy around the farm, and I thought I would go with one wind turbine and one set of solar panels, but the more I thought about it, I pulled toward the 25kw solar panels,” he said.
Gasper also said the panels are easier to work with, standing just 13-feet high, as opposed the turbines, which are hundreds of feet in the air.
There are settings for each season, and Gasper has to move them when the seasons change so the panels receive the most direct sunlight.
He uses a hand crank to move the panels up or down and said it can take as much as hour to do so.
Gasper will have software installed on his computer, so he can see if they are working properly and how much energy they are producing.
His panels were installed in December 2016, and started generating power in January.
The cost was more than $80,000, however, he received a USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grant for $15,377, plus a tax credit and low energy loan. It cost $9,000 for the electrical work, making his total cost $87,000.
The frames for the panels were built and the panels installed by Jim Knopik of Fullerton `and can withstand a 90 mph wind.
Gasper purchased the panels from Martin Kleinschmit, owner of MarLin Wind & Solar of Hartington.
There are 96 panels on Gasper’s farm that stretch about 160 feet long.
They have been up and running for about six months and have produced 17,000 kw.
“I think by the end of the year, the power company will probably owe me a little something,” he said.
In the winter he is paid about 4.6 cents per kilowatt by Elkhorn Rural Power, and in the winter, it’ll be about 4.4 cents per kilowatt.
Gasper said he is now sustainable. If the power grid would be compromised, he would still be able to produce power.
He said he’s been called a visionary, which he agrees with.
“I like to be the first to have anything that comes out before anyone else has it, which is kind of dumb, but that’s the way I am,” he said.