Don Linborg is standing outside his home in a January arctic blast, his face turned ruddy beneath his white crew cut, and he couldn’t be happier. This is the first day his spanking new WindTamer turbine is producing electricity–lots of electricity–to help power his Upstate New York home.
Linborg may be the ideal candidate for a wind turbine. His home sits on 25 acres on top of a ridge outside the town of Livonia, about half an hour south of Rochester. The closest tree line from the direction the wind most often blows is a mile away. “I have trouble keeping a roof on this house,” he says with a laugh. The gusts sometimes blow off shingles, and he recalls a particularly nasty blow that knocked over his Airedale, Annie, and sent his trailer skidding down the hill behind his 3,200 square foot house to the woods below.
Aside from the location, though Lindborg, 47, likes new technology and being on the cutting edge. When he and his wife were shopping for a home in the area three years ago, he was drawn to this house’s geothermal heating and cooling system. Such a system uses fluid-filled pipes that run under the ground where the temperature remains around 58 degrees. In the summer, air from that system cools the home. In the summer, the heating system starts with air at that temperature then adds a little heat from electric coils to raise the temperature to a comfortable level. “The efficiency is crazy,” Linborg says.
He remembers visiting the house for the first time in October 2006, and feeling the steady wind. “That’s when I thought, if I buy this place, I’ve got to get a turbine,” he says.
Linborg uses no oil or gas for heat. He uses electricity to run the blower for the geothermal system to generate some extra heat when needed. Of course, his electric bill is high in the winter, but that’s where his WindTamer comes in.
A recent electric bill showed Linborg uses 21,500 kilowatt hours a year, or about twice the amount for a home heated with gas or oil that doesn’t use electricity for heat. Depending on wind speeds in his area, Linborg’s WindTamer should generate 9,000 to 13,000 kilwatt hours a year—maybe more. At a cost of 13.3 cents per kilowatt hour, that will shave about $1,200 to $1,700 a year off his electricity bill.
Aside from the economics, Linborg likes the WindTamer for another important reason. He had explored traditional wind turbines, but discovered they had to be mounted atop at least an 80-foot tower. “I didn’t like the idea of dealing with local zoning laws and getting a variance.” (He also didn’t like fact that the tower alone would cost more than his entire WindTamer package–tower, turbine and installation.) His WindTamer, by contrast, is just 30-feet tall, well under the 40-foot limit that local laws allow. “The zoning inspector said, ‘Sure, no problem’,” Linborg says.
After he collects a year of results, Linborg says he’s going to consider buying a second unit. That will tip him into being a net-generator of electricity. When he gets an electric bill after installing a second unit, it will show the total the utility owes him, not the other way around. “To me this is part of history. This is going to be revolutionary.”