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Pa. residents use wind energy

December 28, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- Bob Dylan sang that "the answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind." And it just might be for a Waynesboro couple closely watching the energy crisis.

Kurt and Natalie Kemerer installed a 35-foot residential wind generator in their backyard this summer.

They've discovered that harvesting the wind's power has shaved about 25 percent off their monthly Allegheny Power bill. They hope the savings will be greater when Pennsylvania rate caps expire in coming years and electric bills increase dramatically.

"As electric goes up, this will obviously become more valuable," Kurt Kemerer said.

He researched wind generators on the Internet and connected with Carlos Fernandez, who operates Potomac Wind Energy in Frederick County, Md. Fernandez showed the Kemerers the generators on his horse farm.

"Of all the renewable options out there, wind is one of the ones with the least pollution," said Fernandez, who also uses geothermal and solar systems.

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Solar and wind devices often complement each other well because of changing seasons, according to Fernandez.

"My goal is to be completely off the grid by 2010," he said.

The Kemerers have more conservative goals, but they were pleased with their latest power bill for $95 -- down from $120 from the same month in 2007.

The couple said that people considering purchasing wind generators need to consider location and zoning requirements for height. They also should not expect extraordinary results from having just one.

"It's not by any means going to take you off the grid," Kurt Kemerer said.

"It's not going to pay for itself overnight," Natalie Kemerer said. "You've got to really want to do it."

A net metering agreement with Allegheny Power allows the Kemerers' wind generator to turn back the meter at their Sunny Drive home, which is on one of the northernmost and highest points in the Borough of Waynesboro. They said Allegheny Power representatives told them the power company gets very few requests for those agreements.

The U.S. Department of Energy recently reported that the country's cumulative wind energy capacity reached 16,818 megawatts in 2007. The department projected that wind energy could produce 20 percent of the United States' energy by 2030 if costs are reduced and transmission infrastructure improves.

The Kemerers cut down the overall cost of the wind generator by installing it themselves. They erected it for about $8,500 and submitted it for foundation and conduit inspections in accordance with their land use permit.

"The wind has to be blowing pretty good to generate power," Kurt Kemerer said, saying that 10 to 20 mph is best. His wind generator produces on average of 8 kilowatts of power a day.

"Watch it spin, watch it make money," Natalie Kemerer said.

Fernandez said that tax credits and grant money often are available to be used toward the purchase of wind generators, although many local governments don't address or allow the devices in their zoning codes. In Frederick County, where he lives, a lengthy process is under way to explicitly incorporate wind generators.

"Somebody needs to get some 'green' tape and put it over the red tape," Fernandez said.

Fernandez -- a practicing surgeon who sells Skystream wind generators -- developed a lifelong fascination with windmills from the ones made in 55-gallon drums by hippies living in communes. Natalie Kemerer also had appreciated them for years before getting her own.

"You're using something that's free. ... Windmills are so cool for that reason," she said.

Fernandez said he gets personal satisfaction from producing his own power.

People "are at the mercy of paying whatever the power company says. It's a way of fighting back," he said.

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