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0308 PD: Standby generators for the farm foil unexpected outages

Published on 04 February 2008

Power outages caused by snow, ice and high winds can raise havoc with farm businesses, which rely on electric motors, pumps and compressors to run equipment for milking, feeding, cooling and other tasks. To keep their operations running despite the weather, many farmers own standby generators to get them through electrical interruptions.

“One winter storm can sometimes interrupt electrical service for days,” notes Michael Kawleski, manager of the Public Service Agriculture Department. “Investing in a standby generator is good insurance should the power go out, no matter what time of year it is.”

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Standby power units for the farm are available in two basic categories – power takeoff (PTO) or self-contained engine-driven units. A PTO unit may be all many farms need; however, self-contained units can be activated much quicker than PTO units or even be made to automatically come on-line in the event of a power outage.

When choosing a generator, it must be sized to handle the farm’s total electric load. To determine a generator’s size, farmers should add up the wattage of all equipment that will be operating, keeping in mind that motors require three to five times more wattage to start than to run continuously. Damage can occur to a generator that is overloaded, as well as to electrical equipment and appliances on the farm.

For added safety, any standby power system should contain a double-throw transfer switch that disconnects the farm from the power line and connects the farm to the generator. This type of switch prevents the generator from feeding electricity back to the power line, protecting the utility line crews who may be working to restore service. It also keeps the generator from overloading by trying to supply electricity to the whole neighborhood. PD

—Excerpts from Wisconsin Public Service Corporation News Release

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