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Wind turbine makes energy efficiency a breeze at Morgan County home

April 25, 2008|By TRISH RUDDER

 BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Excitement and wind was in the air Thursday morning for the installation of a wind generator at Mountain View Builders Solar House on Pious Ridge Road.

Brothers and owners Mike and Pete McKechnie have been working toward getting the wind generator up and running for more than one year, Mike McKechnie said.

"It will generate electricity that we can feed into the grid or we can use in the house," he said.

The 107-foot-high lattice tower and stub to hold the turbine went up on the second attempt.

It's the first one to go up in Morgan County, and it's the first Skystream residential wind generator in the Eastern Panhandle, Mike McKechnie said.

Digging and Rigging Inc., the crane operator, and about 10 Mountain View Builders employees and friends were on hand to get the tower in place on its concrete base.

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The Skystream wind generator is a residential power generating appliance made by Southwest Wind Power Co., McKechnie said.

"This turbine is made for quiet," he said. "It's made for the homeowner."

The cost for the wind generator was about $15,000, and ranges between $12,000 and $20,000 depending on how tall it is and how close it is to the house, Mike McKechnie said.

"This won't be a way to make money, but you can make some of your own energy and not use coal," McKechnie said. "That's what this is about."

"You have to have wind," he said. "You need to have the site analyzed to learn if it is applicable for good wind power."

The wind generator is part of the solar house's hybrid renewable energy system, he said.

"By combining wind and solar, we generate electricity from the wind, we generate electricity from the sun and we make hot water from the sun from the solar panels on the roof," Mike McKechnie said.

The 1,800-square-foot solar house and connected farmhouse were designed and built to incorporate renewable energy, and uses all sustainable building methods, he said.

The solar house was a demonstration model from the Department of Energy's 2005 Solar Decathlon in Washington, D.C., and built by students at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth (UMASSD).

Mike McKechnie said his company purchased the house from UMASSD, took it apart and moved it to Berkeley Springs.

The goal is to encourage the local and wider community to become energy-independent, McKechnie said.

Pete McKechnie said "the cost right now is flattening West Virginia (with mountaintop removal to get at the coal seams). The cost of gas is locked into the crisis in the Middle East. We need alternative sources of energy."

The solar house will have an official grand opening in June, Mike McKechnie said, but educational tours have already begun.

Neighbors Habiba and Darby Miller came to watch the wind generator go up.

"I'm excited to see alternative building and an alternative use of energy in this area," Habiba Miller said.

Darby Miller said his son, Isa, 8, is home-schooled and is being taught about alternative energy sources.

"It's our overall philosophy," he said.

"We want to demystify alternative energy, and we want to encourage people to do it themselves," Mike McKechnie said.

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