We had the solar panels up and running, and seemed to have plenty of electricity stored in our four
deep cell batteries, easily enough to last for weekend usage, and even enough for week long stays at
Straight Creek. We really did not need another source of energy. We also knew that the wind would
not be a realistic source of steady power, for we had been reading our weather station graphs, and
knew that the valley wind was erratic, but even knowing all this, we still decided to put up a wind
generator. We were simply intrigued with the concept of wind generated electricity, and Greg wanted
to build a windmill tower.
Greg did his usual internet research and we settled on an AirX Wind Turbine manufactured by
Southwest Windpower (www.wind energy.com), in Flagstaff Arizona. We learned that this wind
machine, unlike many others in its price range, was built out of high quality construction materials, such
as carbon reinforced plastic and quality aluminum castings. The AirX also came standard with a built in
voltage regulator, as well as a feature that allows the blades to stall in high wind speeds. Both the
voltage regulator and the stall speed would help to preserve the turbine’s life and allow South West to
sell the AirX with a three year warranty. We found the warranty, as well as the reasonable price of five
hundred dollars, major selling points.
We knew that the windmill’s three two foot long blades would not start to generate electricity until the
wind reaches a speed of at least seven miles an hour. We had learned over the past year that the
valley’s wind speeds often hit the requisite seven miles an hour, and during the spring and fall would
often reach speeds of twenty miles an hour or more, but we also knew that the wind did not blow
steadily. This was no doubt due to the effects of Straight Creek Valley Farm lying in a valley. At a wind
speed of twenty eight miles an hour the AirX generator was rated to produce four hundred watts of
electricity. That would be wonderful energy production if the wind held at that steady twenty eight miles
an hour, but we knew not to have such expectations. We would rather rely on our solar panels for our
major source of energy, and would simply consider the wind generator a back up system.
Installation of the AirX was relatively simple. This is probably easy for me to say, as Greg did the actual
installation, on top of our thirty two foot tall tower, but what I mean by easy, is that the AirX is built so
that it can be wired directly to the battery bank. With its own fuse and stop switch, it can individually
communicate with, and charge, the battery bank. So we ordered our AirX wind turbine and it was
delivered to the front door of our city house. Now all we needed was a windmill tower on which to set it.
Building the windmill tower was really quite fun, but again, this is easy for me to say, because I really
did not help in the construction process at all. I watched as my husband built. He constructed the
entire tower, on its side, in our city driveway. Our neighbors watched in wonder.
Greg built the tower out of ten foot lengths of six by six pressure treated lumber. He built three
sections, each tapered to fit into the one above, and with the tops of the timbers notched to accept the
notched bottom of the timber above. He bolted each section together with half inch lag bolts. The
base of the tower measures an eight by eight foot square. The sides of the tower aesthetically, and
functionally, taper to a three foot square at the top of the third section.
Greg then built a four foot square platform on top of the third section and a smaller fourth section that
stands six feet tall on top of that platform. The wind turbine is then mounted to a pole, that runs up
from that forth section, so that the turbine stands at a height of about thirty eight feet above the
As I noted before, Greg built each of the tower sections in the city. The lay in our driveway looking like
parts of a dismantled Texas oil rig. Once they were all built, we loaded them onto our sixteen foot drag
and hauled them out to Straight Creek Valley Farm. I did assist my husband with the loading process.
We used a hand winch to inch each section of the tower onto the trailer. Each smaller section fit neatly
inside of the one that would lie below. Heads turned as we drove out of the city.
Heads continued to turn even as we drove down Brown Country roads. At one point we pulled into a
small town gas station. I went inside to pay for our gas, and when I returned to the truck, Greg had an
audience of several farmers, all standing around the trailer and wondering what he was up to. One
fellow even thought that our tower was a natural gas rig, and when Greg explained that it was a windmill
tower, even more questions followed.
All through the construction and moving process I had been asking Greg how we were going to stand
the tower up. I could understand how we would bolt the sections together as it lay on the ground, but I
was curious, if not down right concerned, about the process of standing it up. Greg would just smile
and tell me that I would soon see.
We drove the tower sections up to the windmill site. Greg then walked back down the hill to the barn. I
heard the backhoe start up and soon I saw Greg driving his yellow lady up to the tower site. With ease
the backhoe pulled each tower section off of the trailer and into place on the grassy ground. We then
bolted the three sections together, and with just a bit of jostling from the backhoe, the tower lay at its
full length, ready to be set up right.
We next set to digging the four footer holes, in which each of the four tower feet would stand. We dug
to our usual two foot depth, below the frost line. We then set two by sixes at the back side of each
hole, hoping that the tower feet would neatly slide down the two by fours, into their holes as Greg and
the back hoe lifted the tower into place.
I stood back, far back, as Greg gently slid the back hoe's front end loader bucket under the top of the
tower and raised it up as far as the bucket would allow. We then set saw horses under the tower to
support it, while Greg lowered the bucket and drove it up under the supported tower prior to raising it
again. I then removed the saw horses and stood far, far back again, and watched and photographed
as Greg worked the backhoe’s bucket up the length of the tower. When he came to a section joint, and
the brace boards would not allow him to simply slide the bucket up, he would gently walk the front and
back edges of the bucket over the brace board.
The tower never wavered. It rose serenely and its four feet dropped ever so neatly into their appointed
holes. The tower stood tall and beautiful. We were proud.
We next hoisted up the wind turbine. Greg set it on top of it’s pole. We then hoisted up the wires and
Greg connected them. We finally dug a trench to the battery box by the cabin, and Greg connected
them. We had wind generated electricity, at least when ever the wind would blow.
For weeks after we set up the windmill, we would simply sit on the front porch and wait for the wind to
blow. Some days we sat and waited for what seemed like hours, but what a wonderful pass time it was.
Waiting for the windmill to turn is kind of like waiting for a fish to bite. It is a perfect excuse to do
nothing. And then, when I am out in the orchard, watering or pruning, or doing orchard things, I can
feel the wind on my face. I can look to the top of the tower and I can see the blades start to turn. I hold
my breath as the blades turn faster and then start to hum and once I know that we are making energy, I
start to breathe again. It is a wonderful sight and a wonderful feeling. No doubt the solar panels are
wonderful things too, for we know that they generate electricity, but the windmill is special. It is
beautiful, and we can see it, and hear it, and really feel that it is working, even if only on occasion.
So our Power Tower was built, but we envisioned still more. Greg built a platform at the base of the
tower. He then enclosed the platform for privacy and we mounted a fifty five gallon drum, painted black
to better absorb the sun’s warmth, in the middle section of the tower. A pull cord and a shower head
later and we had a gravity flow, passive solar, shower that worked like a charm. No more cold creek
bathing for this farm lady. So we now have a Shower Power Tower, the only one in all of Brown
County, as far as we know.
Straight Creek Valley Farm
AirX Wind turbine
Black painted 55 gallon
drum passive solar water
Shower with privacy fence