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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Harness the wind: Turbines grow in popularity

From an article by Judy Newman in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Art and Mindy Shrader have a new conversation piece in the back yard of their log home near Reedsburg: a wind energy turbine, designed to help power their house.

“We live up on a ridge and the wind is always blowing there,” Shrader said. “We thought it would be nice to do something about that.”

Gene Frakes has had a wind turbine on his property in the town of Perry, in the southwestern corner of Dane County, for two and a half years. The 10-kilowatt turbine produces an average of 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity — or about $110 worth — a month, enough to power his home and send some extra electricity out to the grid for his utility company to use. “There’s five months a year when they owe us money,” said Frakes, who also installs wind power equipment.

In the past several months, interest in individual wind turbines has revved up in Wisconsin and beyond. Residents are signing up to buy them, and companies are springing up to sell and install them. Part of the popularity stems from new federal tax credits.

Nationwide, the number of small wind generators installed for home or commercial use grew 78 percent in 2008 over the previous year, and residential sales in early 2009 were 15 to 20 percent higher than a year ago, according to a study by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), in Washington, D.C.

In Wisconsin, about 65 small wind turbines have been installed over the past six years with commitments for 25 or 30 more, according to Focus on Energy, a public-private partnership, funded by utility ratepayers, that facilitates renewable energy and energy efficiency.

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