The excuse we get in South Dakota for not developing wind power sooner is the lack of big transmission lines to carry the huge amounts of electrivity our prairie winds can generate to the big-city power markets. My response has generally been that we should focus on building small wind farms and single-dwelling turbines to power our local needs first, then worry about exporting. power.
The stimulus law may help with both. President Obama's signature Tuesday extended the production tax credit for wind energy through 2012, which will help the industry do a little more long-term planning and investment. The Department of Energy is also directed to study the electrical grid and make recommendations for expanding access to renewable power sources. On the home front, the stimulus law extends a 30% tax credit for residential renewable energy systems, including wind turbines, solar panels, geothermal units, and fuel cells. (Read more from Kevin Eber, Department of Energy, "Clean Energy Aspects of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act," RenewableEnergyWorld.com, 2009.02.18.)
Now you still have to spend green to get green. The rooftop Swift Wind Turbine and Energy Ball featured in Saturday's NYTimes cost $10K–$12K to purchase and install, and you might have to haggle with Zoning Officer Deb Reinicke to get the county to let you put up a 30-plus-foot tower to catch better wind. But the Swift runs at 35 decibels, which addresses some of the noise concerns over big turbines and, as one owner reports, is less noisy than the groaning in the wind of the barn he installed the turbine on.
If some Republican governors want to give back their stimulus money, great: all the more for the rest of us to invest in energy independence.
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