Amelia Nielson-Stowell: Backyard wind turbines face resistance

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  • chahn
    Dec. 14, 2009 2:29 p.m.

    I have a skystream in texas and for the last three months it has produced over 500 kwh each month. I can't help but think of the upcoming chevy volt. It is supposedly uses around 2800 kwh a year at 40 miles a day. If gas is 3.oo or more a gallon and the generator is 11000 to 15000 this pays of quickly. Gas for me is 3 to 4 thousand a year at that price. Were talking five years or lease payoff! The life expectancey of Skystream is 20 years and probably can be fixed fairly easily. Think about it.

  • Bill
    Nov. 26, 2009 5:43 p.m.

    Hi Mike, glad to see you are trying to make a little impact and easing the pressure a little on the environment. This is an old friend from Colorado and the last time I saw you was in Realto. I have been thinking some about a wind turbine lately too but where I live I don't get much wind except when we get the high canyon winds that would blow them away. Keep up the good work!!

  • Summer Brooks
    Oct. 30, 2009 12:21 p.m.

    Way to go, dad! I'm proud of you for going green!!

  • It's not always about money
    Oct. 26, 2009 9:21 a.m.

    We have a Whisper 500 wind turbine and a solar array. It's wonderful to be completely off the grid. At night when the solar array is not charging the batteries, many times the wind will keep them powered up. When Rocky Mountain Power has outages, our lights are still on. Let's all go green! It's not always about the money!

  • To "Great Idea"...
    Oct. 25, 2009 12:08 a.m.

    An average electric bill is on the order of $150 per month, or $1,800 per year. If your generator is able to eliminate that bill (not likely - it will more likely just reduce it) - then at that rate ($1,800 per year), and neglecting inflation, payback is 7.2 years. The effective interest rate on your $13,000 investment is a whole whopping 1/2 percent (actually, 0.45%), so not even 1%.

    In financial terms, the current "today" value of the project to you is -$5,800; in other words, you are LOSING $5,800 on the deal. And that is not including inflation, which makes the loss even greater. And if you take out a $13,000 LOAN with interest - oh my, the pain just gets really bad!

    Then again, you could put your $13,000 into some other investment at a decent interest rate; at 8% it will be worth a little over $22,000 in 7 years.

  • Flag Poles
    Oct. 24, 2009 11:05 p.m.

    Just wondering if the sensible scientist would oppose large flag poles that we often see in yards all over town? No one seems to have a problem with them, myself included, but because a wind tower has three spinning arms, they seem to be considered an eyesore by some. Not sure why!

  • M Brooks
    Oct. 24, 2009 10:22 p.m.

    My wind turbine is a Skystream 3.7 Another product is made by a company called Helix wind out of San Diego. They manufacture a vertical axis wind turbine. It is very attractive and will catch the wind from all directions as it spins on a vertical axis. They are a little more expensive however.

  • Lindy
    Oct. 24, 2009 9:52 p.m.

    After reading this article, I went on the internet and looked at home wind power, and didn't find as much comprehensive information as expected. What company did Mr. Brooks use to buy these windmills and does the company install them?

  • Sensible Scientist
    Oct. 24, 2009 6:10 p.m.

    Just because something is politically popular does not mean zoning and other local decisions should treat it any differently than any other structure. The big moving parts give it an especially high visual impact.

    I would oppose one in my neighborhood just as I would oppose a billboard or other high visual impact structure.

  • Quiet wind generators
    Oct. 24, 2009 5:41 p.m.

    "Windmills are LOUD"

    Ummm... no. They only make appreciable noise when they're spinning in a stiff wind - which means it's already loud outside.

  • reality
    Oct. 24, 2009 5:28 p.m.

    Windmills are LOUD

  • Scotty
    Oct. 24, 2009 3:52 p.m.

    I was mistaken about your business. My apologies to you Michael Brooks.

  • Scotty WHO???
    Oct. 24, 2009 3:00 p.m.

    I happen to know Michael Brooks and he is not in the Wind Turbine business. I also am aware of the company that sold it to him so get your facts right. I tend to believe you know as much about wind power as you do Michael Brooks!

  • M Brooks
    Oct. 24, 2009 2:51 p.m.

    Scotty, I am not in the wind turbine business and am not making any money off of this or benifiting from the publicity. You seem to be a little confused on all of your facts.

  • Scotty - as in "Scottish Power"?
    Oct. 24, 2009 12:38 p.m.

    Wind power is highly efficient - even more so than solar. That's a fact.

    Wind turbines are nearly silent - especially the smaller ones intended for single residences. That's another fact. Maintenance on them is minimal.

    Let's say that after tax credits and other incentives you're still looking at amortizing $8k. If your current (no pun intended) electricity bill is $150/month and you cut that by 40% with your wind turbine, then you've recouped your investment in ten years - all the while reducing your demand for coal-fed power and the need for more coal-fired power plants. And if you use your wind power to generate electricity that charges your electric car overnight (ala the new plug-in hybrids such as the Chevy Volt), then you're also reducing our dependency on foreign oil.

    I think the wind turbines are beautiful - both in operation, and in terms of what they do for both our economy and the livability of our communities.

    Clear the air, folks. Wind & solar are the future.

    I just wish I lived in a part of the world where it was windy.

  • Scotty
    Oct. 24, 2009 11:30 a.m.

    Michael Brooks is not an unbiased, neutral observer on this subject. Selling wind turbines is his business. Naturally he is going to say how wonderful they are. This is all great publicity for his business, and puts money in his pocket.

    The truth is that wind turbines are of marginal value at the most. The initial costs are very high, and it takes years just to break even. After a few years, the maintenance costs become so high, that it greatly reduces the net return. Yes, they are eyesores, and noisey, but the biggest downfall of wind turbines is the fact that for many days out of the year, the wind doesn't blow strong enough to make the turbines productive.

  • I wonder
    Oct. 24, 2009 10:19 a.m.

    how thrilled the power companies will be to think that we can create our own power and thereby reduce our dependency on them? Yeah, this is going to happen.

  • Andrew
    Oct. 24, 2009 9:38 a.m.

    I had one of these in Wyoming and I can vouch for the cost savings over the long run. Yes there are maintenance costs but they are minimal. Yes the utility companies are wary but as yet there are no "punishment" type tactics being anticipated. When I installed mine in Wyoming the power company was oblivious and the tech even laughed. Then 2 years later I had regular power bills that were virtually non-existent. However if these home windmills catch on (aka lower costs) you can bet there will be repercussions. The big utility companies will demand monetary reparations because companies like PG&E and Pacific Power like being the big boys on the block and they like exclusive. My advice is to get them in while you can because soon that may change. States in fiscal trouble like Utah may decide to treat these things as potential tax revenue streams and that will kill the incentive. Government simply can not stand up to their cash cows (political donations) on these issues and the average citizen will get rolled.

    Count on it.

  • Rick
    Oct. 24, 2009 9:31 a.m.

    It's very appealing to be able to generate your own electricity. However, a lot of wind turbines in my sub division would really stand out because our power lines are buried. I can see why people wouldn't want 45 feet structures in their face. Hence cities need to have an ordinance in place.

  • Janetta
    Oct. 24, 2009 8:52 a.m.

    I think this is a great idea. Take advantage of the power mother nature has given us! The turbines in the picture are attractive and don't seem to be an eyesore at all. Maybe the idea will catch on and we can reduce our dependance on man made power. Good for you, Mr. Brooks.

  • Great idea, but...
    Oct. 24, 2009 8:48 a.m.

    The turbine shown in the photo is next to a horse farm. It is on a large lot and away from the house. Putting them on smaller lots next to houses is a different matter. I can understand why people would object. I've seen photos of wind turbines that are cylindrical in shape, about two feet in diameter, and not much higher than the roof of the house. These look a lot more feasible than the ones shown in the photo.

  • Sierra Clubber
    Oct. 24, 2009 8:22 a.m.

    We will never win the war against climate change as long as planning and zoning commissions exist. Their sole purpose is to impede environmental progress by slowing down the installation of dispersed power sources.

  • windy
    Oct. 24, 2009 7:35 a.m.

    Go people go. These should and must be about everywhere there is enough wind. It is only smart and it makes common sense. Of course the placement must be safe and sound and the local laws should allow these with temperance. Hopefully in more congested areas these can be allowed with smart laws.

  • Lindy
    Oct. 24, 2009 7:01 a.m.

    I love the idea of installing a device like this that will ultimately offer free non-polluting electricity, these small backyard turbines are expensive at the onset though, maybe as time goes by the cost can decrease.

    Driving through a windfarm in Minnesota last summer gave me the heeby-jeebies, there was something about those huge, slow moving turbine arms that just creeped me out, don't know why, I'm probably the only person who ever had that reaction to a wind farm!

  • Solar guy
    Oct. 24, 2009 6:49 a.m.

    I'm not sure who researched this article but the current incentives do not cover 50%. The fed covers 30% and the state caps the incentive. No engineering costs or permit fees are included. Don't be misled but by all means consider clean energy.

  • T.
    Oct. 24, 2009 6:21 a.m.

    The article helpfully explains that a wind turbine is a "mechanical windmill." As opposed to what? What kind of windmill isn't mechanical?

  • I want one.
    Oct. 24, 2009 4:39 a.m.

    Why this has not been widely publicized has me a bit confused. They are an asset and they can save billions is oil and coal dependence for power companies. Many rural area farms have converted to these wind generators and I think it's a good idea in residential housing. As for property value, it would be a plus for me.

    My biggest concern in researching these is the longevity of the turbines and maintaining and repairing them. The one improvement I have been waiting for is the incorporation of pitch changeable props to neutralize them in higher than design winds. They have built in clutches to maintain speed but they can wear and overheat. Although less than 50 feet high, they should still have aircraft warning lights on top if near any airports or in flight patterns.

    I wouldn't be surprised if the power companies come out with some major campaigning for a state law to ban these power saving wind turbines for residential use, with all kinds perceived safety reasons plus loss of revenues issues for them.

  • iamsure
    Oct. 24, 2009 3:51 a.m.

    Where can I buy one.

  • Anonymous
    Oct. 24, 2009 2:27 a.m.

    As long as it isn't a skate park, it is fine!

  • Great idea!
    Oct. 24, 2009 2:06 a.m.

    This is a great idea. I was wondering when this would happen. It just makes sense to become as efficient as possible. I'm no tree hugger, but this is very interesting. How long would it take to make back $13,000 on power bills? Also, when the power goes out and the generator still powers the house, that could be life-saving. I'd like to see how this compares to solar power.

  • So even if there is no ordinance
    Oct. 24, 2009 1:30 a.m.

    We have to wait for local cities to create one so we can build a wind turbine?

  • John
    Oct. 24, 2009 12:20 a.m.

    My question is if there is no ordinance regarding windmills, why it would be illegal to put one up in the first place. Laws don't give us permission to do something; according to Utah State Code, if it's not on the books as something that's illegal, then it's not illegal.