Coast Looks to Wind for Power
by Cassandra Profita
Capital Press, May 28, 2009
Rural landowners can benefit from small-scale turbines
It's not gale-force yet, but wind energy development on Oregon's North Coast is picking up speed.
Government grants, tax incentives and a local marketer of turbines have generated a gust of interest in small-scale wind power among local homeowners, educators, municipalities and officials at the Rilea Armed Forces Training Center in Warrenton, Ore.
Surf Pines residents Burr and Sally Allegaert had a 2.6 kilowatt turbine installed in their yard in November.
The 26-foot turbine can generate between 300 and 900 kilowatt-hours a month - enough to eliminate roughly 12 percent of the Allegaert's electric bill.
"We have so much wind here as a rule during the summer and winter, it seemed to make good sense to us," Allegaert said.
Before installing the turbine, the Allegaerts consulted their neighbor, William Dougherty, who runs a wind turbine distribution company in Warrenton called Global Green Power with his wife, Diane. The company helped them assess the wind power potential of their property, evaluate potential obstacles and visual impact and apply for permits and tax credits.
The Doughertys have been selling wind power on the coast for a little over a year, introducing a lot of locals to incentive programs that cut the cost of buying and installing small wind turbines. Turbines like the Allegaerts' cost between $18,000 and $20,000 including installation, but various state and federal programs can slice that by at least a third, William Dougherty said. The Allegaerts have relatively high electricity usage and a low-powered turbine. By installing a more powerful turbine, some homeowners can eliminate their energy bills altogether, he said.
"I'm getting calls now every day, it seems like, which is great," he said. "The wind we have here is incredible. ... The process is not a cheap one, but the government is helping a great deal with incentives. That is definitely what is needed."
This year's federal economic stimulus bill expanded a 30 percent tax credit for homeowners and small businesses buying turbines that produce up to 100 kilowatts.
These "small wind" turbines are just a fraction of the size and cost of commercial ones going into wind farms in the Columbia River Gorge. Commercial wind farms deal in megawatts, one thousand times the power of a kilowatt.
"This is different from what's going on in the rest of the planet with the real big, behemoth wind turbines," William Dougherty said. "We're using new technology."
Global Green Power consulted with Camp Rilea officials before the 2.6 kilowatt turbine was installed at the training base in Warrenton.
Jim Arnold, who works with the Oregon Military Department Environmental Branch, said the wind turbine at Camp Rilea - visible from U.S. Highway 101 - is a pilot project to test wind patterns and turbine technology. Depending on its success, he said, the state could invest in several more turbines to offset the costs of running the Warrenton facility and minimize the army's environmental "boot print."
"There's some talk about considering grants for additional turbines," Arnold said, "but the National Guard wants to be a good neighbor, too. We don't want to make a wind farm out of Camp Rilea."
Dougherty recently met with Astoria city leaders and motivated them to apply for $3.76 million in economic stimulus grants to install 100-kilowatt turbines at the aquatic center and the wastewater treatment facility. The 100-kilowatt units cost around $500,000 each.
Astoria Public Works Director Ken Cook said the turbines would plug directly into the grid, allowing the city to save on energy expenses through a "net metering" program.
"This is a really exciting opportunity," Cook said. "I think we have a lot of potential."
Across the state, the net metering concept is catching on, said Tom Gauntt, public information officer for Pacific Power. By installing renewable energy sources such as solar panels and wind turbines, individuals not only generate their own power, but can also use the electrical grid to store up energy credits and slice their power bills.
The company has 646 net metering customers across the state, though so far only six of them are utilizing wind power while 639 are using solar panels and one is using hydropower.
The main drawback to wind power has been the expense, Gauntt said. Plus, even the residential wind turbines require quite a bit of open land.
But new programs are helping defray the costs.
Last year, Astoria High School was one of seven schools in Oregon to receive a grant to install a 2.4 kilowatt turbine through the U.S. Department of Energy and Western Community Energy, a Bend-based wind energy developer.
Clatsop Community College is eligible for a 50-kilowatt turbine through the same federal program, called Wind Energy for Schools. The turbines would likely be installed at CCC's Marine and Environmental Research and Training Station campus.
While that energy production will help reduce the school's energy bill, the real purpose is to give students hands-on experience with how wind power works.
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