Editor’s Note: They’ve got it going on!
LISA BULE, St. Petersberg Times, November 7, 2009
“This is the craziest thing I’ve done in my life,” the 47-year-old commercial painter joked Friday after a crane lowered a 19-foot, 1-ton wind turbine onto a pole behind his waterfront vacation home.
While the aluminum device that looked like a giant strand of DNA wasn’t as sexy as a red Ferrari, it prompted as much oohing and ahhing as crews prepared it to capture winds from the Gulf of Mexico and convert them to energy that will lower Lyon’s electricity bills.
“This is fascinating,” said Mary Bona, who lives next door to Lyon in the Westport community. “He’s done his homework. He’s been working on it for quite some time. He’s been itching to get it going.”
Neighbors snapped photos with their cell phones as men in jeans and T-shirts directed the crane operator and then bolted the turbine down to a metal base that had been bolted to a concrete platform.
“Let’s plug this toaster in and see if it works,” said Dave Graham, a welder who made the base. He disconnected some wiring that was being used to still the turbine during the installation.
It spun as the breeze blew.
Lyon, who was running around in paint-splattered jeans and puffing on a cigar, handed out water and soft drinks.
“This has got to be a thing of the future,” neighbor Mike Kratky told Lyon.
Lyon, who lives part of the year in Pittsfield, Mass., had already gone green in other ways. He recycles and drives a fuel-efficient Toyota Prius.
Last year, he began researching wind turbines after learning about the generous government incentives. He gets back 100% of the purchase price in property tax relief over 10 years. It amounts to about $2,500 a year, wiping out a big chunk of the tax bill on his nearly 2,000-square-foot house. He also gets a 30% federal tax credit.
“You heard so much about going green, cleaning the Earth, and the rising cost of electricity,” he said.
The greatest benefit for Lyon is that the turbine generates electricity that will be used to reduce his meter reading. When he uses less than the turbine generates, it will be sold back to his utility company, Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative. The device will begin paying for itself in just a few years.
Lyon said his wife was hesitant when he approached her with the idea.
“She thought it was crazy,” he said. But she came around after hearing about the savings.
Lyon said county officials and neighbors also have been supportive.
“I was ready to go through a bunch of hoops and loops,” he said.
The location, right off the gulf, is ideal for generating wind. And the turbines produce as much noise as the rustle of trees.
Lyon bought his 2,000-pound turbine from Helix Wind, a San Diego company. It arrived in seven boxes. Neighbors helped him assemble it in two days.
“It’s like an Amish barn-raising,” said Martin Little, who stopped by to watch the turbine being put up.
It can produce 10,000 kilowatts a year with an average 12 mph wind.
Lyon said all the county inspectors are set to visit on Tuesday.
Not because of any problems, “but because they want to see it,” he said.
Those in the industry say the use of wind turbines is taking off with the new emphasis on green energy.
Ron Stimmel, small systems manager for the American Wind Energy Association, a national trade association for the wind energy industry, said the turbines are used in all 50 states, mainly in windy places that offer the best incentives.
“Florida’s not the strongest of either but that’s not to say they don’t have a solid presence, especially along the coast,” he said.
Sales were up 78% last year, mainly because of investors who put money into manufacturing companies.
The high up-front costs make them prohibitive for many but Stimmel expects that to decrease as the manufacturing process is streamlined.
Payback can begin in as few as five years, he said.
“It’s like free electricity for life in 20 to 30 years,” he said.
Lyon admitted it was a costly investment. He saved money by doing a lot of the work himself.
“I was my own general,” he said. But he knows it will pay off.
“I’m feeding the electric company rather than feeding my house,” he said.