Turbine tips: Group will host conference on renewable wind energy

Posted: Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Considering recent action and discussion by the Soldotna and Kenai city councils, it seems wind turbines could be a significant part of the Kenai Peninsula's future.

As with most developing technologies, there's a lot to consider before deciding to hop on the bandwagon or resist the movement.

The Kenai Peninsula Association for Renewable Energy will host an educational conference Saturday at the Kenai Visitor Center beginning at 10 a.m. with the hopes of answering the community's questions about wind energy.

If you can't make the conference, here are a few things you may or may not already know. The following information comes from Nadia Daggett, owner of Alaskan Wind Industries.

First of all, Daggett said, her company's goal is not to invade cities with an overabundance of generators.

"There's some places that are just not good for wind, and we've had to deny it," Daggett said.

When an individual or a business approaches Alaskan Wind Industries about possibly installing a generator, Daggett's crew will assess the area's wind speeds with an anemometer. That assessment determines what kind, if any, generator would best serve the area. In Kenai, average wind speeds are about 6 meters per second or about 13 miles per hour, which can supply about 400 kilowatt hours per month with certain generators.

When selecting the wind turbine model, the consumer has to consider what they are hoping to get out of the generator. Depending on the size of the house, some turbines could actually power the entire home.

Daggett said a Skystream turbine could supply 75 percent to 100 percent of the power needs of an 800 square foot home. Skystreams cost a little more than $6,000, stand at 34 to 70 feet high and have a rotator diameter of 12 feet. Of course, generators can also be used as a supplemental power supply. The smallest model turbine Alaskan Wind Industries carries costs about $600 to $800 and looks like a large room fan.

"A lot of people want to put a smaller turbine on their house as emergency backup," Daggett said.

Daggett said turbines take an average of six to seven years to pay for themselves. That initial investment is what daunts many potential consumers.

For businesses, which are eligible to receive grants that can all but pay for some generators, the decision to push ahead can be much easier to make. For individuals, purchasing a wind turbine for a home can be as big of a commitment as purchasing a car.

Once someone decides to install a turbine, it takes about a month to get it set up. Daggett said most of that time is spent waiting for the turbine's concrete footing to set.

After the turbine is installed, it can be connected to Homer Electric Association's power grid. The turbine could also be connected to a personal battery supply. Where to connect it should depend on if the residence is already connected to the grid, the amount HEA is willing to reimburse for excess energy produced and the turbine's intended purpose. If it's a small turbine intended as a backup energy source, there's no reason to connect it to the grid, for instance.

Turbines have a life expectancy of 25 years and could require maintenance fees over the years.

Daggett believes the investment is worth it, both economically and ideologically.

"No matter what your political beliefs are, this is a positive thing," Daggett said. "It doesn't hurt to reduce your emissions and become more independent."

Andrew Waite can be reached at andrew.waite@peninsulaclarion.com

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