Illinois man adds wind turbine to property to help with electric bills

Sunday, September 30, 2007

FREEPORT, Ill. -- A 35-foot high wind turbine 12 feet in diameter on Troy Rudy's property saved him $80 in electrical bills the first month he had it running.

But economics wasn't the only driving force behind setting up the device. Rudy said he's "always been intrigued by old windmills."

Even so, he researched whether a wind turbine was worth his while, and he said that research convinced him it was.

"There's suitable wind speed," he said.

Rudy's research revealed September through June are "good wind months." The Flagstaff, Ariz.-based Southwest Wind Energy manufactured Rudy's $10,000 Skystream 3.7. Miriam Robbins, the company's marketing manager, said it's sold 500 units since December.

Global warming and rising energy costs inspired the interest. The company has also sold 80,000 battery-powered Air-X units, since it was introduced 10 years ago. Rudy owns one of them as well, and it generates 400 watts of electricity.

The Skystream 3.7, he said, is designed to supplement his 1847 farmhouse's energy needs. Rudy said the wind turbine could save him 40 to 80 percent. It's wired directly to his home's electrical panel. Therefore, as wind increases, Rudy's meter slows or does something more.

"My meter has stopped and ran backward," he said.

Its benefits have seemingly come with no drawbacks, including noise.

"(If) you're sitting on the deck, you can't hear it over the rustle of the trees," Rudy said.

His neighbors seem to concur. Rudy said he hasn't gotten a single negative reaction from them.

"They have no problem with it," he said.

Stephenson County zoning regulations didn't hinder him, since there's currently no ordinance regarding such devices. However, Stephenson County Planning and Zoning Director Terry Groves has proposed an ordinance regarding personal wind turbines.

That proposed legislation, Groves said, permits 60- to 90-foot turbines in agriculturally zoned areas and requires a setback 1.1 times the turbine's height, which includes the blades. He acknowledged issuing Rudy's permit and noted there are 15 to 20 pending permit requests.

"It's becoming quite a thing," Groves said.

Groves said wind turbines have become more popular due to increasing electricity rates. While properties in agriculturally zoned areas are regulated, Groves said state statutes keep counties from exercising their authority on farms.

"Farms are exempt from our county zoning regulations, with the exception of setbacks," he said.

Installing the wind turbine proved to be the only obstacle.

"The biggest hurdle to overcome (was) digging the hole," Rudy said.

It took seven hours to dig a hole two feet in diameter and 10 feet deep to accommodate the foundation.

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