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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Northern Nevada wind power pioneers hit snag; vertical turbines not delivering savings as promised

An article by Brian Duggan in rgj.com. This article raises the question: Who is responsible - the producer, the consumer, or a third party - to ensure that small scale renewable projects are efficient and effective?:

Three years ago, Albert and Dena Sousa spent about $30,000 to install two vertical axis wind turbines at their Spanish Springs home after they were told the technology would cut their power bill in half.

The retired couple from California thought the turbines, produced by former Reno-based company Mariah Power, would generate enough electricity to pay for themselves in five years after a $7,000 rebate from NV Energy.

Today, the Sousas say the turbines have required several repairs, including a mechanical malfunction that’s stopped one turbine from spinning. Meanwhile, the windmills have generated only about 365 kilowatt hours of power over three years — a fraction of the energy they were hoping to generate — meaning there will be no payoff in their lifetimes.

“So, I’m out $23,000, and all they are is a yard decoration,” Albert Sousa said on Wednesday while standing beneath the 30-foot spires next to a backyard chicken coop. “They’re no good at all.”

Advocates of small-scale wind energy production say stories like the Sousas’ experience at their high-desert home highlight the challenge early adopters face when investing in a nascent industry.

That includes sorting through unsubstantiated claims made by some manufacturers of wind turbines meant for backyards or city parks as well as maintaining a realistic set of expectations for the technology.

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