By Connor Lynch
MOREWOOD — Vankleek Hill elevator operator Kevin Wilson is considering making the switch to a generator, after a Hydro One employee warned him to cut his usage or face a 30 per cent rate hike or more.
Not all farmers agree that going off-grid is the right decision. Generators have their own advantages and annoyances.
Andre Menard, who runs Menard Elevators at Morewood, not only uses two generators, but sells them as well. When he started his elevator operation in 1998, he got a diesel-powered generator straightaway. Nothing to do with that year’s ice storm; there just wasn’t a three-phase hydro line nearby.
Running on a generator is convenient and efficient, Menard said. His two generators, one $25,000 and one $50,000, have run well since they were first installed. Maintenance is a regular job, but having two generators means he can use the smaller one for smaller tasks or less busy times, and a backup is never a bad idea either. Since he’s had them, the machines have never had a breakdown. One time his larger, $50,000 generator had a leaking radiator, but he just shut it down and let the other one take over.
Said Menard: “We don’t have any meters, no peak hours; it’s very convenient.”
Not all elevator operators are sold on generators. Joe Spruit of Triple J Farms at Mountain, who has a 17,000-tonne grain capacity elevator, used to rely on a generator for power but switched onto the grid. High fuel costs, breakdowns at inconvenient times, and constant refueling needs sold him on the convenience of the grid. “I was always worried about that engine. If it quits, then you have customers standing outside yelling at you,” Spruit said.
Fuel needs were constant. “Because we were running one huge generator, 300 gallons (of diesel) didn’t go 48 hours. They were coming every second day to put fuel in, to make sure I didn’t run out overnight.” Spruit added that being on the grid is actually cheaper than relying on diesel.
Meanwhile, Gary Derks of Derks Elevator at Chesterville has a hybrid-system. He’s still on the grid, but relies on a $100,000 diesel-powered generator for his heavy-duty motors and during harvest. He figured running it costs him about half what it would for hydro.