Amish plug into solar, wind power
GRABILL, Ind. — Northeastern Indiana’s large Amish community is starting to embrace wind and solar energy to power their homes’ lights, refrigerators and other equipment.
Although many Amish rejected high-voltage electricity in the early 1920s because of the power lines that would have connected their people to the outside world, limited use of site-generated, low-voltage electricity is acceptable to many Amish.
The latest Amish resident hoping to tap into natural energy sources is 63-year-old Victor Wagler. He’s seeking permission from Allen County officials to erect a $15,000 steel tower that will stand 87 feet and be topped with a wind-driven, electricity-producing turbine.
“With the cost of fuel, it should pay for itself in three years,” Wagler told The News-Sentinel of Fort Wayne for a story published Saturday.
Along with the generator and a solar panel, it would power the lights in his home and barn near Grabill, about 10 miles northeast of Fort Wayne, along with the refrigerator and freezer.
Wagler hopes a zoning hearing officer approves his wind turbine during a meeting Tuesday.
According to papers filed with the county, the proposed turbine would generate about 538 kilowatts of electricity per month at a wind speed of 12 miles per hour.
Even a cursory drive through northeast Allen County’s Amish country reveals several barn roofs adorned with high-tech windmills that — while much closer to the ground and smaller than Wagler’s proposed 7-foot blades — have much the same function.
“Twelve volts is OK,” Wagler said, demonstrating the dimly lit electric lamp in his kitchen.
Brian Burkholder, who owns Solar Energy Systems of Nappanee, said that about 70 percent of his customers are Amish. He’s Amish too.
“Our business is tripling every year. (Amish) are supposed to have no electricity except for battery power,” Burkholder said. “You just about have to have electricity for some things today, but you want to keep your kids from being tempted by TV and radio.”