July 7, 2004 -- CropChoice news -- Chip Thompson, Times-News,
06/26/04: LeRoy Jarolimek began creating electricity
out of thin air last week.
Jarolimek isn't a magician. He's just a farmer with
a passion for wind power who has spent the last two
years conducting research, obtaining grant money and
installing a 120-foot, power-generating wind turbine
on his Burley Butte farm.
Tuesday Jarolimek held an open house for the public
to see the new turbine and for representatives of state
and federal agencies to address questions regarding
development of wind-generated power in Idaho.
"If we can get one project like this, then we
can show it's possible throughout the state," Jarolimek
said, indicating his desire to promote wind energy as
a way to help Idaho's struggling farms survive.
While he plans six more turbines more than twice the
height of the current 20-kilowatt generator, Jarolimek
is already realizing the fruits of his labor through
a net-metering arrangement with Idaho Power Co. Under
the arrangement, producers are credited for any power
they create beyond what they use.
Jarolimek's son, Ronnie, said the turbine has generated
about 360 kilowatts of power since being hooked up June
2 despite relatively light winds.
"It's been running pretty consistently,"
Ronnie said. "We're actually turning the meter
Scott Gates of Idaho Power said Jarolimek is the first
wind generator, but there are about three small hydroelectric
and 10 solar producers taking advantage of the net-metering
program. Some have reduced their electric bills, while
others receive monthly checks for their power overages,
"The wind resources in the state are actually
greater than the hydro resources," said Engineer
Brian Jackson of Renaissance Engineering and Design,
who worked with Jarolimek on obtaining USDA grants made
available by the 2002 farm bill.
Jackson is involved in projects around the state, including
Val Schwendiman's $2 million, 1.5-megawatt project under
way in Newdale, just east Rexburg.
Jarolimek and his family invested $30,000 for the current
turbine and received a $10,000 USDA grant, according
to USDA State Director Mike Field. Schwendiman has received
$500,000, and Jarolimek was presented with a $20,000
grant check for research into the next phase of his
"The grants are a national competition,"
Field said, "so we feel lucky to get three."
Jackson pointed out that Jarolimek's income from the
turbine is expected to repay his investment in about
eight years, but suggested that an increase in energy
costs would shorten that term.
Research is under way for Jarolimek's $11 million,
10-megawatt expansion of the wind farm, and he joked
that he could already see the six additional turbines
in his mind.
An uneasy public speaker, Jarolimek relies on his enthusiasm
to get the message out about wind power and how it can
benefit struggling farmers. He travels regularly around
the state meeting with farmers and engineers, educating
himself and sharing what he has learned.
"Keeping that knowledge in my head and saying
it's mine doesn't do me any good," Jarolimek said.
And there's no better place than Idaho for prospective
wind farmers, according to Gerry Galinato, an energy
specialist with the Idaho Department of Water Resources.
He pointed out that there are 18,000 megawatts of untapped
wind power in Idaho, making it the premier state in
the Northwest for wind power development.