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Plantation Bed & Breakfast’s new windmills provide a green energy source

November 30, 2012

Julie Branken (left), owner of Plantation Bed and Breakfast on Route 119, is pictured with Gary Fairman (right), standing below the windmills she had installed on a hill above her business to offset her electric bill and save energy. (Photo by Larry McGuire/The Punxsutawney Spirit)

YOUNG TOWNSHIP — The old legend has it that Don Quixote used to tilt at windmills, but today, there are many more people who are installing them for another reason — as an alternative energy source.

Such is the case at the Plantation Bed and Breakfast on Route 119 in Young Township.

"My son, Jesse Branken, came home from college in June, and he had suggested putting up windmills at Plantation Bed and Breakfast in order to save on electricity," said Julie Branken, owner of the popular bed and breakfast.

Branken had read the book "Cradle to Cradle Design" (also referred to as Cradle to Cradle, C2C, cradle 2 cradle, or regenerative design) published by Michael Braungart and William McDonough, which tells of a biomimetic approach to the design of products and systems, which convinced her to proceed with the project.

"It reminded me of the suggestion Jesse had made regarding the possibility of installing windmills to save money on electricity and conserve our natural resources," Julie said, adding that Jesse said he would ask Gary Fairman to help with the windmill concept.

Branken said there are cheap windmills that can be purchased, but many of them are not likely to do the job.

"You can purchase a cheap windmill, stick it 20 feet in the air, and it does nothing," she said. "Obviously, the higher you go, the better your windmill will perform."

Fairman said that the high hill behind the bed and breakfast produces a large amount of wind.

"What is cool is when it's windy at night, and you wake up in the morning, and you've made 30 kilowatts of electricity while you were asleep," Branken said.

Fairman said he and Jesse drove to Ohio and purchased the windmills from a supplier.

"I thought Jesse was talking about driving to Youngstown," Fairman said.
"Turned out it was in Columbus. I could have thrown a baseball to the state of Indiana from where we were," Fairman said laughingly.

Branken said construction began in July with the pouring of the concrete.
"Everything has to be perfectly accurate for the windmill to produce electricity," she said. The goal is to have a $0 electric bill with the windmill producing all of the electricity for free."

She said Dennis Hallman, who works in construction, handled the concrete and the labor.

Fairman said the windmill generates 220-volt power at its head, and then it comes down as 220 into the power box.

"There's a breaker in the power box, and Julie has an electric meter that will spin backwards and keep track of the negative amount charged on her electric bill by the electric company," Fairman said. "If her power actually goes out, then the windmills stop turning."

Branken said there are some days when the windmills will barely turn at all.

Fairman said in the directions, it suggests one only erect the windmills on the calmest of days.

"We went to install the first one during the summer, and the wind was howling 30-35 mph the whole day," he said. "We put it up and it spun really fast the first day, and then it calmed down the rest of the week."

Branken said she figures it will take eight years before she'll break even on the project.

"After that, my electric will be free forever," Branken said.

When you're driving south on Route 119 as you pass Cunningham Road in Young Township you'll see the two windmills spinning away high upon the hill to your left above Plantation Bed and Breakfast.

With an energy-saving process like this, even Don Quixote might be impressed.

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