The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • Snow.2
    FIRST SNOW—Heavy, wet flakes piled deep on tree branches—and windshields—as the area received its first significant snowfall of the season. “Usually it begins with a dusting or two,” said George Isobar, Morenci’s observer for the National Weather Service, “but this time it came with a vengeance.” By the end of the day Saturday, a little over four inches of snow was on the ground. Now comes the thaw with temperatures in the 40s and 50s for three days.
  • Front.sculpt
    SKEWERS, gumdrops, and marshmallows are all that’s needed to create interesting shapes and designs for Layla McDowell Saturday at Stair District Library’s “Sculptamania!” Open House. The program featuring design games and materials is one part of a larger project funded by a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from Disney and the American Library Association. Additional photos are on page 7.
    Morenci marching band members took to the field Friday night dressed for Halloween during the Bulldog’s first playoff game. Morenci fans had a bit of a scare until the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs scored 30 points to leave Lenawee Christian School behind. Whiteford visits Morenci this Friday for the district championship game. From the left is Clayton Borton, Morgan Merillat and James O’Brien.
    DNA PUZZLE—Mitchell Storrs and Wyatt Mohr tackle a puzzle representing the structure of DNA. There’s only one correct way for all the pieces to fit. It’s one of the new materials that can be used in both biology and chemistry classes, said teacher Loretta Cox.
  • Front.tar.wide
    A TRAFFIC control worker stands in the middle of Morenci’s Main Street Tuesday morning, waiting for the next flow of vehicles to be let through from the west. The dusty gravel surface was sealed with a layer of tar, leaving only the application of paint for new striping. The project was completed in conjunction with county road commission work west of Morenci.
  • Front.pull
    JUNIORS Jazmin Smith and Trevor Corkle struggle against a team from the sophomore class Friday during the annual tug of war at the Homecoming Games pep rally. Even the seniors struggled against the sophomores who won the competition. At the main course of the day, the Bulldog football team struggled against Whiteford in a homecoming loss.
    YOUNG soccer players surived a chilly morning Saturday in Morenci’s PTO league. From the left is Emma Cordts, Wayne Corser, Carter and Levi Seitz, Briella York and Drew Joughin. Two more weeks of soccer remain for this season.
  • Front.ropes
    BOWEN BAUMGARTNER of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge constructed by the Tecumseh Boy Scout troop Sunday at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The bridge was one of many challenges, displays and games set up for the annual Youth Jamboree by the Michigan DNR. Additional photos on are the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.homecoming Court
    One of four senior candidates will be crowned the fall homecoming queen during half-time of this week’s Morenci-Whiteford football game. In the back row (left to right) is exchange student Kinga Vidor (her escort will be Caylob Alcock), seniors Alli VanBrandt (escorted by Sam Cool), Larissa Elliott (escorted by Clayton Borton), Samantha Wright (escorted by JJ Elarton) and Justis McCowan (escorted by Austin Gilson), and exchange student Rebecca Rosenberger (escorted by Garrett Smith). Front row freshman court member Allie Kaiser (escorted by Anthony Thomas), sophomore Marlee Blaker (escorted by Nate Elarton) and junior Cheyenne Stone (escorted by Dominick Sell).
  • Front.park.lights
    GETTING READY—Jerad Gleckler pounds nails to secure a string of holiday lights on the side of the Wakefield Park concession stand while other members of the Volunteer Club and others hold them in place. The volunteers showed up Sunday afternoon to string lights at the park. The decorating project will continue this Sunday. Denise Walsh is in charge of the effort this year.
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Fankhausers have a small wind turbine 2009.10.17

Written by David Green.

fankhauser.barn.jpgBy DAVID GREEN

Some people buy a wind turbine with the idea of saving money on utility costs; others just like the idea of having one.

Put Marvin and Cindy Fankhauser in the latter category.

“It’s like a hobby for us,” Marvin said when a group of Morenci eighth grade science students came to have a look. “It saves us a little money, it gives us lights in a power outage and it’s a conversation piece.”

Marvin bought a small battery-charging turbine from WindBlue Power located in Kansas. The developers created a simple system that generates power with an alternator from a 1978 Camaro. Brush magnets are replaced with permanent magnets.

A three-phase current travels down from the top of the tower to a rectifier that feeds into a pair of golf cart batteries. Those batteries can be repeatedly drained and recharged without harm.

An inverter changes the power to household current.

The students came prepared with plenty of questions.

• Does it kill birds?

The number one killer of birds, Marvin said, is the window. An estimated 500 million birds die every year from collisions with windows.

Cats come in next at 100 million deaths and turbines trail at an estimated 6 million.

• Will snow or ice affect the operation of the turbine?

Ice might hamper it a little, Marvin said, but not much.

• How much did your turbine cost?

The tower has stood by the barn for 30 years, so there was no cost there. The turbine cost $474 and everything else down below in the barn cost about $900.

• Why did you buy a turbine?

This is when Marvin explained that it’s sort of a hobby. Maybe he’s acting a little ”green” or maybe he’s just being cheap, he said

Power from Consumers Energy is generated by coal and if he uses a little less of it, then that’s a little less coal burned.

“If everybody saved a little,” he said, “that would make a big difference.

“Since June, I haven’t used any electricity from Consumers for lights and power tools in the barn.”

He’s sharpened lawnmower blades and operated a variety of power tools with wind energy.

• What if it’s not windy?

Power is stored in the two batteries. His system can handle up to eight batteries.

Morenci is in a low area and won’t experience as much wind as other nearby areas, Marvin said. His tower is only 47 feet tall. The really large turbines stand up to 300 feet in the air. He’s been told there’s always some wind blowing by the time you reach the 120-foot level.

• Could your turbine survive major winds without damage?

WindBlue claims the unit can withstand a 100 mile an hour wind, Marvin said.

“My tower might not survive that,” he said.

It’s possible to create a braking system to slow the rotors down.

• Did your turbine come ready to use?

Marvin painted it and assembled the blades, then arranged the electrical components in the barn.

“It’s a pretty simple operation to do,” he said.

• How big is your turbine?

The blades are five feet from tip to tip.

• Would you buy it again?

In this area, he said, it’s questionable.

“There are two many obstructions,” he said. “Mrs. Fankhauser and I planted 185 trees on this land.”

The Fankhausers have had their turbine only since June and look forward to evaluating the operation after they go through the windy spring season.

• Does it attract lightning?

The tower used to, but since Pennington Gas erected a large tower several years ago, Fankhausers’ property has never been hit.

 • Did you have to obtain permits?

He didn’t need a permit for the tower since it’s been in place for three decades. There was nothing to work out with Consumers Energy since Fankhausers’ system is not connected to the electrical grid.

• What are the upkeep costs?

The turbine came with a 25-year warranty. Once a year nuts and bolts should be checked for tightness and the mounting pole should be greased.

• Do you think the school should buy a turbine?

“I think a turbine would be good for a learning application,” Marvin said, “but not to service the school [with electricity].”

• When will it pay for itself?

“Maybe never,” he said, but that’s the reason he bought it. “We bought it for a hobby, but it could run the freezer in a power outage and save a lot of food from rotting.”

According to company literature, four batteries could keep a large appliance operating for four days.

Besides that, he said, it could provide lights and warmth after a storm and that would make his wife very happy.

You can’t put a price on that feature.

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