Energy Adviser: Wind turbines may be breeze for your home

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With home-based alternative and renewable energy technology receiving more attention every year, it may seem like a good idea to have a wind turbine spinning outside your back door. Wind energy could offset some of your utility bill as well as help the environment, right?

Clark Public Utilities experts recommend a careful step-by-step process to determine if a wind project is right for you before making the investment in turbine equipment at your home.

A good first step is measuring how often and how much the wind actually blows at your house, says Sam Walker, energy engineer and utility conservation program manager.

To figure that out, Walker suggests installing a data-logging “anemometer,” which is a common weather station device that measures wind speed.

“I typically recommend that utility customers install a data-logging anemometer and collect at least six months to a year of wind speed data prior to investing in a wind generator,” Walker said. Candidly, he says there are few sites in Clark County that are windy enough to merit a wind project.

Some experts recommend the more primitive “car door” method of evaluation. If the wind regularly blows hard enough to make it difficult to close your car door, then you may have enough wind to justify investment in a wind turbine.

Walker recommends a minimum average wind speed of 8 mph at your property site.

“Locations near the Columbia Gorge in east Clark County and sites on Larch Mountain are likely the only sites that might qualify,” he said.

Check lists, rebates

If your site meets the wind-energy criteria, the next step is to investigate the utility’s “interconnection checklist,” which outlines all the procedures, permits and approvals required. You should also be familiar with installation incentives and tax rebates before you buy and install your generating equipment. Incentives can change year-to-year.

Make sure you are up to date on any revisions and extensions made by Congress this month to federal energy-incentive tax law and regulations. Consult http://www.clarkpublicutilities.com on all renewable energy projects and/or visit http://www.dsireusa.org for the most recent news.

The utility is not offering any local incentives or rebates on wind energy projects but its experts can help you use a Washington state program that will reimburse your system costs at 18 cents per kilowatt hour of production. The rebate is paid annually.

In addition, homeowners can receive a federal income tax credit on wind turbines at 30 percent of the cost of installation.

Getting a project to completion requires many steps and a lot of documentation. The utility has built a checklist that includes submitting such things as an electrical schematic design, a site plan and nonrefundable processing fees that can range from $100 to $500 depending on system kilowatt production. Written approval from Clark Public Utilities must be in hand before any work can start, Walker said.

Send written queries to Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668, Attn: Sam Walker, or contact him by email at swalker@clarkpud.com or by phone at 360-992-3354.

Costs and fees

Walker says costs to install a home-based wind turbine system can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. One 2.3-kilowatt wind project in Clark County cost more than $10,000.

Once the project is installed and ready for operation, the applicant must submit a certificate of completion to the utility. The utility checks electrical production and installs a production meter. Depending on size, a meter fee of $250 to $500 will be charged to the applicant.

Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to energyadviser@clarkpud.com or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.