Couple uses wind to cut costs

By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent

A couple who live on the outskirts of Bovina have more than one reason for installing a wind turbine in their back yard.

Tony Neal and his wife, Dottie, installed the 41-foot wind generator in January. The trailblazing couple hope it will cut their energy costs in half, help the environment and generate business.

They are the first in West Texas to install this brand of turbine — a Skystream 3.7 produced by Southwest Windpower of Flagstaff, Ariz.

The couple paid $9,000 to buy and install the Skystream 3.7, Tony Neal said.

Depending on the type of soil the turbine is on, the distance from the house and the turbine height, it can cost up to $12,000 to get up and running.

The Skystream was designed for rural residents who live on at least a half acre of land, according to Andy Kruse, senior vice president of business development and co-founder of Southwest Windpower, the company that built Skystream.

Compared with large wind generators that have popped up throughout the region in recent years, the Skystream pales in size. It does, however, exceed residential height restrictions in some cities, such as Lubbock.

“It’s really designed for those houses on 5 or 10 acres that are on the fringes of suburbia,” Neal said.

Homes with Skystream are served simultaneously by Skystream and a local utility, according to the Skystream Web site. When wind speeds are below 8 mph, there is no output from the generator and power is purchased from the utility. As wind speeds pick up, Skystream’s output increases and the amount of power purchased from the utility proportionately decreases. When the Skystream produces more power than the house needs, the meter spins backward, creating a “credit” used later, according to the Web site.

Neal expects his turbine to produce between 600 and 800 kilowatt-hours a month. His house averaged 1,556 kilowatt-hours a month last year.

The Bovina resident believes in Skystream so much he has signed on to install it in other homes. The turbine produces no waste or greenhouse gases, and wind as a clean energy resource was a major selling point for Neal to entice others to buy.

“Anybody that’s connected with farming, we’re all conservationists, and if you can do something that’s good for the environment, I think that’s good,” he said.