Weather Forecast


Salem couple harnesses wind as power source

Solar panels have been installed on the roof of the Roy and Nancy Christianson home in the Town of Salem. Scott Freier (left) checked out the panels and the home's roof. They Christiansons also had a wind turbine installed. Photo by Bill Kirk

TOWN OF SALEM -- Turns out, Roy and Nancy Christianson found a good place to take advantage of Mother Nature for powering and heating their Town of Salem home when they moved there a couple of years ago.

High atop a hill just north of Hwy. 10, the wind is felt there regularly and the spot seems as close as any to the sun.

In fact, a strong gust recently peeled the flashing off part of their roof, which has since been repaired.

But that's not what prompted Christianson to pursue the possibilities of wind power and solar energy for their three-bedroom house with an unfinished basement.

"I saw my first one in Prescott," he said of a wind turbine similar to the turbine that went up at his residence earlier this month.

Another of the large towers topped by the whirling blades appeared on nearby property along CTH CC. He said he talked with the owners, who indicated being very pleased with the equipment's performance.

Last summer, Christianson approached Freier's Electric and Heating in Ellsworth about the potential for the couple to likewise harness the wind. He said he learned of other options the business offered, including geothermal equipment, along with solar electric and solar water.

"We had a wind assessment done for them," said Linette Greske of Freier's, reminding a site that's constantly windy isn't necessarily ideal for locating a turbine. Yet, in this case, it was determined the place would indeed work well.

"It's above the tree line," owner Scott Freier said, mentioning such earthbound items that could interfere are called ground turbulence. Greske added some conservation measures recommended with the assessment have been accomplished.

The East Ellsworth company installed 20 solar panels on the Christiansons' five-year-old home before the turbine, in March, he said. When it came time to situate the latter, planners had to be careful it wouldn't block those panels, not even its shadow.

A crane wasn't needed to lift into place the 120-foot-tall turbine tower, which was raised using leverage instead, he said. An anemometer, situated below the turbine, at a specific height approximately three-quarters of the way up the structure, collects data like that used to site its host tower. An instrument called for by Focus on Energy, it meets mapping requirements and is part of making the Christiansons eligible for Cash Back Rewards from Focus. Other area landowners interested in having their own wind turbines will be able to take advantage of its data in the future.

Greske described Christianson as a "pioneer." He may not be the first in Pierce County to have a wind turbine and solar panels, but will be among the first to collect tax credits for having them, as well as a credit from Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services for his geothermal equipment. A related positive development occurred when, while updating her about the status of the turbine project, he questioned why he hadn't received a utility bill from the co-op. Yes, between the installed systems and the incentives, the couple had accrued enough credit to avoid the bill, she said.

"We have propane as a back-up and are on the off-peak program," Christianson said.

The Christiansons lived in the Twin Cities before moving to Ellsworth, where they'd previously spent four years. He said he's retired from the State of Minnesota, having been employed in that state's traffic signals department. They have two grown sons--David in the Ellsworth area and Ben in the Cities--plus a daughter, Teresa, in the Cities.

The wind turbine is made by Jacob Manufacturing in Prior Lake, Minn., Freier said. Sanyo manufactures the solar panels. The geothermal system is manufactured by Water Furnace in Fort Wayne, Ind.

For more information on renewable technologies like solar, wind geothermal or the site assessment process, call Freier's at 273-3658 or visit their website at The Christiansons' home is located at W3396 Hwy. 10 and they welcome visitors to come and take a look at their site.

To comment on this article, go to