Severe Weather? Keep Your Farm Powered

Heat advisories, thunderstorm warnings, wind alerts – Wisconsin can look like the Wild West in the early summer, making June Dairy Month a bit unpredictable but don’t let severe weather shut down your dairy operation.

Jeff Mahlkuch is a project manager at A-1 Electric based in Monroe, Wisconsin where roughly 60% of their customers are rural residents. He says the two most important factors to making it through severe summer weather are having an up-to-date power grid and a suitable standby generator.

Check The Grid

At this time of year, Mahlkuch says farms are looking to make system changes, add animal housing, update fans, or make upgrades to existing facilities. Make sure the electrical service you have is large and new enough to handle additions to the electrical load.

Examine your farm and look for signs of a problem..

  1. If the wiring is overhead, are the poles rotted off at the ground?
  2. Is the service falling off the pole?
  3. Are the lights flickering when there isn’t a storm?
  4. Does a windy or rainy day affect the electricity on your farm?

“There’s no downtime on a farm, there’s always something to do especially this time of year, but we are seeing a lot of rotted off poles where literally the only thing that’s holding the pole up is the wire stretching between two points,” Mahlkuch says.

Note that heat makes everything less efficient and more prone to failure.

When it comes to lightning, the most impactful protection is to ensure your facility is properly grounded from the main service all the way to the receptacles in your home, Mahlkuch explains. He says surge arrestors and UPS systems have proven to be effective at mitigating damage to equipment in both the home and farm.

Check The Generator

“The power never goes out when you’re doing nothing on a farm.” During a storm is the wrong time to find out you have issues with your power backup.

  • For PTO-driven generators, take it in for a load test once a year. The same goes for a stationary self-powered system.
    • Test transfer switches – pole top units, Ronk boxes or site isolation devices on a nice day so that if repairs or upgrades are needed there is time to facilitate these changes.
  • If you make upgrades to the farm, make sure the generator is big enough to handle the loads that you’ve added.

If the power goes out, don’t run the entire farm all at once on the standby, Mahlkuch emphasizes. Most of the farm generators he sees were never sized to run the milking equipment, ventilation equipment, feeding equipment, water system, and the entire house all at once. Make a list of priorities that fit your setup as far as what has to be running and what can wait until those larger loads are off. When one power-heavy task is done, go to the next one on the list.

Bring in your electrician when you’re thinking about making a farm upgrade or addition. Not only can they make sure you have the electrical load to handle updates, but they can start looking for available dollars to save you money, such as the Farm Electrical Rewiring Program, Focus on Energy, and other state grants.

Make sure your farm is protected before disaster strikes. Reach out to a Rural Mutual agent to customize coverage that meets your needs.