July 1, 2008

Newport: For Couple, Windmill a ‘Good Idea’

By Sharon Kiley Mack, Bangor Daily News, Maine

Jul. 1--NEWPORT, Maine -- High on a ridge in eastern Newport, a new wind turbine whirls silently on a 100-foot tower in John and Sue Burgess' front yard. It's the latest in alternative technology, imported from France, and its 9-foot blades make the Burgesses feel pretty good about their responsibility to the planet.

"We've been talking about this for 30 years," tree farmer and businessman John Burgess said Monday. "This location has always been windy, especially in the winter when it just blows."

With a $57,000 price tag -- residential windmills can range from $15,000 to $75,000, depending on size and need -- the Burgesses admit that the windmill's payback won't be anytime soon, but they admit that the good feeling they get as responsible stewards of the earth more than makes up for the cost.

"Even if we don't bank enough with the winter winds to pay for our summer use, it still seems like the right thing to do," Sue Burgess said. "It just feels good to have done it."

The couple said interest in the windmill has been high. "Everyone is asking about it and I've not heard one negative," John Burgess said.

Sue Burgess said her neighbors moved their lawn chairs, set up so they could see the view to Bangor, so they could get a better look at the windmill. "They can't even hear it," she said. "It's almost become entertainment around here.

"No one has said it's an eyesore. That was a consideration before we installed it. We didn't want it to block the neighbors' views or disrupt them with noise.

"Maybe it is the times," she said, "but I think it is a beautiful thing. It's making a difference."

The Burgesses even cut some limbs on a tree so they could watch it spin from their family room.

"I love it," Sue Burgess said. "With electricity prices going up -- they have already gone up since we put the windmill up just a month ago -- this would have been a good idea 30 years ago, but it's an even better idea today."

The Burgess family said they also employ other methods to reduce their energy use: drying clothes on a line, supplementing with wood stoves, shutting off lights and paying attention to what appliances use for energy.

But they said it was the windmill that could make the longest, most effective difference.

Wind speed was 2.5 mph to 5 mph Monday, but during a recent storm it topped 30 mph.

The Burgesses' windmill was installed by Evolo Energy Solutions, a Newport company operated by their daughter Emily Burgess and her partner, John Rush. The company also is providing solar energy solutions.

Rush said it would be easy to calculate how soon the windmill will pay for itself once a year of operation has passed. "But there are so many other tangible offsets, such as the reduction in carbon dioxide, that wind is an endless, renewable resource." Rush said wind power is 100 percent efficient. "For every kilowatt-hour created, you get exactly 1 kilowatt-hour of use."

The windmill that the Burgesses installed is a 6-kilowatt turbine that produces 6,000 watts of electricity an hour with winds of 25 mph. To stay even with his electric use, John Burgess said he needs about 20-25 kilowatt-hours a day and he's not getting that yet.

"We expect it to produce far more in the winter," he said.

"And we expect the payback to be faster as electricity prices go up," Sue Burgess added.

Rush said his company handles wind turbines from three manufacturers and as demand increases, prices will drop. "If we make windmills in the volume we make cars, they'd cost $50," he said. He said there are government incentives for residential wind power but that the federal rebates are up for renewal by Congress this fall.

Evolo Energy Solutions

may be found at www.evoloenergysolutions.com or at 368-5040.


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