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Chip Simons

Wind turbines are popping up like daisies across the country. In fact, the United States ranks third in the world for wind power generation, behind Germany and Spain. These wind gardens range in size from a single private operation in New Hampshire to a project on the Oregon–Washington border that has more than 400 164-foot turbines.

One reason wind energy is taking off is because of the many private and state-sponsored programs encouraging homeowners, businesses, and utilities to use cleaner power. Tax incentives and exemptions, loan funds, and rebate programs exist in several states to support the installation of wind turbines. Ninety percent of the renewable energy supported by green markets is wind.

Currently, turbines are whirring in 35 states. Of the states that don’t generate wind power, all but two, Louisiana and Delaware, offer utility programs to purchase wind power from elsewhere.

This is where you come in. Click here to see the green power utility programs in your state: If your utility is not listed, you can still support wind power with renewable energy credits (RECs) through programs like NativeEnergy’s CoolWatts program. Through RECs your home may not actually use renewable energy, but you will be replacing dirty fossil fuels with green energy elsewhere on the grid. Most households base their amount of RECs on their household electricity consumption.

Many Americans also complement energy from their utility with their own home-blown wind power. Typically, small wind systems are about 80 feet wide with rotors 23 feet in diameter. At times of high winds, net metering programs allow residential wind turbine owners to sell excess energy back to their utility. Energy from the utility is then used during times of little or no wind. This two-way energy flow also benefits utilities during peak consumption times, such as heat waves. Click here to view your state’s net metering policies.

The initial investment for residential turbines is large, but they can cut electric bills from 50 to 90 percent. Under optimum conditions, some small wind systems have paid for themselves within a decade. Because the average wind speed, tower height, local electricity costs, and usage all influence the payback time, be sure to research your property’s potential before installation.

To make small wind installations more financially appealing, wind advocates are proposing federal legislation for a 30 percent tax credit for wind systems of less than 75 killowatts. There has been no federal sponsorship of small-scale wind power since 1985.

Feature story link to "Selling the Wind."

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