Winds of Change from Winds of Destruction

May 29, 2014

Audio with Haley Roberto, Harvest the World Network president. (MP3 3.7 MB). Download Windows Media Player. Time: 00:04:01.

In 2007, an EF-5 tornado struck Greensburg, Kansas and completely leveled the entire community. As the town decided whether or not to rebuild, Harvest the World Network started a redevelopment plan to rebuild Greensburg as the first green community in the heart of America.

Harvest the World Network (HWTN) President Haley Roberto says the company—which is owned by BTI Incorporated, a fourth-generation family implement dealer business—began to learn more about renewable energy. HTWN used a small wind turbine to power construction and build a platinum LEED facility, and Roberto says they discovered farmers could also use wind energy to power their operations.

"We actually decided that we could utilize the same type of mentality that we do in our John Deere business, and that is to take care of and service and support these turbines for the lifetime of the turbine. And so we decided that we would partner with this manufacturer that donated us that turbine and start selling these turbines to our local farmers, or the people that were inquisitive and wanted to know about this turbine and leverage their own use of power."

Roberto says distributed wind energy is based on two criteria. The first is how close the energy device is to the end user. The other is the point of interconnection. She says rural communities should embrace distributed wind energy because it provides an opportunity to produce their own, clean power, among other reasons.

"In Kansas, I grew up in a small town of 800 people, and during a track meet in high school, there was good days and there was bad days. The bad days was when you were running into the wind, and the great days were when you were running with the wind. And I think that there's just so many opportunities to leverage wind, which could create a really bad day, and there's so many things that wind is known for for a bad reason, but to leverage that, to embrace that, and to utilize that to create your own source of power."

Many people think wind energy is a good idea, but they don't like the idea of taxpayers subsidizing it. Roberto says most people don't realize wind energy provides power to more than 15 million American homes and thousands of businesses across the country and creates jobs. In fact, she says the wind industry has driven more than $105 billion of investment into the U.S. economy just since 2005. Also, Roberto notes the cost of wind power has decreased by 43% in the past 4 years.

"I believe that we need to contribute to the subsidies which are in place and that foster this industry. I think that we can stay on course if we have the Production Tax Credit and the ITC extended. We need to continue to have that to be able to continue to see the cost reduction of our technology. That way we don't lose jobs, we don't lose these manufacturing facilities to foreign countries."

HTWN has developed a process to help someone interested in beginning a wind project see if it's right for them.

"We have installation services, so we install the turbines. And then we have financing options as well, and to provide insurance. One thing that I think is the most important piece of our business is our elite and nationwide service organization. Doing what we do best. No matter what, we will sell, we'll service and we'll support our products, and we'll always keep the customer first."

Roberto says HTWN is in existence due to a disaster, but its founders decided the winds that destroyed Greensburg would be the winds of change for a better economy and energy future.