Each rhythmic whir from the blades spinning 45 feet above Doug Auch’s snow-covered homestead moves him one step closer to energy self-reliance.
Auch’s Skystream 3.7 wind turbine knocks 40 percent to 50 percent off his monthly electric bill, a benefit he’s developing into a business opportunity as eastern South Dakota’s new Southwest Windpower dealer.
The former contractor hopes to persuade fellow residents to invest $12,000 to $18,000 in a residential wind turbine with the promise that it will eventually pay for itself.
And for the first time, Auch and his industry colleagues will have a silent partner — the federal government.
The $700 billion federal bailout of the nation’s financial sector established a residential wind investment tax credit of $1,000 per kilowatt of capacity, providing up to $4,000 in assistance.
“That speeds up the payback,” Auch said.
Residential wind energy systems — turbines producing up to 10 kilowatts of power — will never encompass a large chunk of the national energy picture, said Mike Bergey, president and co-founder of Norman-based Bergey Windpower Co.
But for homeowners, ranchers and small business owners, they provide a means to affordably generate their own clean power, Bergey said.
“They are pieces of the portfolio that we need to put together,” he said.
Ron Stimmel, the American Wind Energy Association’s small wind advocate, said about 1,500 residential wind turbines were sold in the United States last year, and the market has been growing at an annual rate of 14 percent to 25 percent during the past decade.
He expects at least 50 percent growth in 2009 as the industry continues to mature by developing more reliable designs and attracting more outside investment.
The Washington-based organization had lobbied Congress for a straight 30 percent federal tax credit instead of one capped at $4,000, but Stimmel said the new incentive is a start.
“If we can get that expanded, we could see the industry double in a short period of time,” he said.
Stimmel said he expects strong growth in states with their own incentives, such as Oregon, California, Arizona, New York and New Jersey, as buyers can often benefit from both categories of credits.
Auch’s 2.4-kilowatt turbine on his acreage just outside Lesterville begins producing power in an 8 mph breeze and achieves full output in 29 mph winds.
The whir in a recent winter day’s 15-mph winds was audible but not distracting, and the wind association estimates that most modern residential turbines reach decibel levels no noisier than an average refrigerator.
The turbine continually sends performance stats to Auch’s laptop computer through a wireless connection, and a small inverter housed in the device converts the electricity from direct to alternating current so it can mesh with the power grid.
A special two-way meter provided by Auch’s energy co-op measures both the power he uses and the excess he produces.
BY DIRK LAMMERS, Associated Press Energy Writer – http://newsok.com/federal-tax-credit-gives-boost-to-home-wind-turbine-market/article/3347118