Rural Texans, Other Ranch Folk Can Save Money With Wind Power

Rancher types can say “blow me” to their electric bills, installing windmills that snag them federal tax credits that help them generate their own electricity.

A Fort Worth Star-Telegram trend story says Texans are jumping in on the phenomenon since the old $4,000 cap is gone with the wind. Lower-end 1-kilowatt generator turbines are typically about $7,500 installed, and can yield big savings, the story says:

James Paraey, an architect in Argyle, put up a 1-kilowatt turbine in March at his vacation home in Coleman, 175 miles southwest of Fort Worth. He said his electric costs have been cut in half.

“We want our place to be as green as possible,” Paraey said. “And it was about as complicated as putting up a flagpole.”

Thirty percent of the start-up costs are eligible for the tax credit, and the rigs typically slash $50 a month of electric bills. The windmill pays for itself in less than a decade, a distributor in the story says. But wind turbines pay for themselves sevenfold in adorability the moment they’re erected.

The Savvy Consumer: With wind turbines, saving money can be a breeze [Fort Worth Star-Telegram]
(Photo: winteridge2)

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. hi says:

    wind is a conspiracy

  2. JustinSane07 says:

    This is why the Nantucket Sound thing pisses me off every time wind power is brought up.

    I’d install 2 of these in my backyard if I could.

    • tonalanswer says:

      @JustinSane07: it’s been a while since i’ve heard anything about that (i don’t live nearby).

      link for anyone who perhaps hasn’t heard of it.

    • ARP says:

      @JustinSane07: Does it annoy you that they’re fighting it or that they want it there. I can see both sides- if much of your economic engine is tourists looking for scenic beauty, then yes, there’s a good reason to fight. The other side is that people should put their environmental cred where their mouth is and let them build.

      The third way is look for areas that have consistent wind supply, but don’t spoil the view (because there really isn’t one). Like rural Texas, the plains, certain desert areas, etc.

      • GearheadGeek says:

        @ARP: “rural Texas” is not one place, nor does it all look the same. Some areas are much more scenic than others. The Panhandle and west Texas, where T. Boone Pickens has some wind farms and was planning others, are relatively flat and featureless and honestly the big windfarms offer a nice break from the endless horizon if you’re driving out that way, but the Hill Country and parts of eastern TX don’t suck to look at.

        • ARP says:

          @GearheadGeek: Sorry, didn’t mean it that way. My point is to find the “ugly” places (yes, all relative, but you know where I’m going) that generate wind and use those spots first, before considering using the “scenic” areas.

  3. theblackdog says:

    It’s ironic that this is posted when it came out the other day that T Boone Pickens has stopped construction on his planned wind farm in TX because they can’t get the transmission lines built to bring the electricity to the grid.

    [www.reuters.com]

    • MrEvil says:

      @theblackdog: That’s really the problem with Pickens’ plan. The Texas Panhandle is almost completely isolated from the national grid. Pickens has all the land in the universe up in the northeastern panhandle. But that land and his turbines are absolutely worthless if there’s no place for the juice to go. As it stands right now, our area is taking as much as is possible from the two wind farms that are already operational.

  4. raleel says:

    I need to go visit my HOA tenets again. I’d love to have one of these in my backyard sucking up the ludicrous amount of wind I get

    • GearheadGeek says:

      @raleel: If you have a mandatory HOA, I’d bet you a mortgage payment that you’re not allowed to have one. HOAs don’t want anything that looks too eco-friendly, someone might think their neighbors need to save on their utility bills because they’re poor or something.

      • raleel says:

        @GearheadGeek: ya, i worry for that, although my HOA was not nearly as restrictive as some of the more recent ones. They do have a specific ban on farm animals, which put a crimp in my fresh eggs plan.

        Obviously, I need to move out of the city.

    • pot_roast says:

      @raleel: That’s something that the Feds need to ban, eh? Sucks that my HOA can say “No solar panels” or “no green energy” because they’re more worried about looks than the environment.

  5. moore850 says:

    we get a steady wind, but i’m pretty sure that anything taller than 10-20 feet would get the community up in arms.

    • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

      @moore850: They make roof-mountable ones now for residential installation that are no more obtrusive than an old aerial.

      More models in Europe but some in the US.

      • henrygates says:

        @Eyebrows McGee (now with more baby!): Yes but in the US HOAs typically freak out about a blade of grass leaning over onto your driveway.

        • GearheadGeek says:

          @henrygates: *looking outside at slightly-shaggy grass waiting for a less-hot Saturday AM mowing* Ah, it’s so nice not to have an evil HOA anymore. I will never, ever participate in one that I can avoid as long as I live.

        • Ragman says:

          @henrygates: You beat me to it. Yeah, some of those HOA Nazis nut up over anything that pokes over your roof line that’s not a chimney.

        • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

          @henrygates: @GearheadGeek: @Ragman: @ARP: moore did say “community” not “HOA.” If it’s an HOA, the battle’s probably lost before it begins, but if it’s a community issue, it’s winnable!

          • gaywolverine says:

            @Eyebrows McGee (now with more baby!): keep in mind the HOA is a collection of the HOMEOWNERS. If you can convince the other homeowners in your area that wind turbines will cut their utility bills in half and increase their resale value (buyers having to pass less in utilities can pay more for the home) than they should be all about testing it.

      • ARP says:

        @Eyebrows McGee (now with more baby!): True, they have the cylindrical style ones that aren’t as much of an eyesore. However, other posters are right about HOA’s wanting homogenity over saving money, helping the environment, or saving kittens.

  6. MostlyHarmless says:

    Rancher types [can installi] windmills that snag them federal tax credits that help them generate their own electricity.

    The joke writes itself. But I will refrain. I think it is safe to say i read way too much news, when an article about wind power makes you want to crack jokes about politics.

    • katstermonster says:

      @MostlyHarmless: Let’s be honest here: the article’s title starts with the words “Rural Texans.” The jokes are countless, without even getting political! Ahaha.

      • MostlyHarmless says:

        @katstermonster: Now all we need is to get Trai_Dep, GitEmSteveDave, HiPwr, Voyou_Charmant and ARP to comment here, and we’ll have a “Th NR ncdnt Rtrns”

        • ARP says:

          @MostlyHarmless: I’ll bite and fulfill my stereotype….Weren’t these the same guys talking about succeeding from the Union. Now they’re accepting FEDERAL tax money. Commies. [I hope that was vitriolic enough.]

          BOT- Nearly any program that encourages more renewable energy and less coal, gas, oil, etc. is OK by me.

          @GearheadGeek: Correct, the previous administration did offer this. I’m hoping that the current administration increases incentives, streamlines the approval process, and markets these efforts a bit more.

          • Con Seannery says:

            @ARP: Well, they aren’t really accepting money so much as using their spending to NOT pay as much on their taxes. And I find tax breaks preferable to payouts from the government.

        • Trai_Dep says:

          @MostlyHarmless: Ironic that the same Texans that wanted to secede because of Federal gov’t spending line up for… Federal gov’t spending to them
          Good to see that they’re participating, don’t get me wrong. But I’m unsure whose heads are spinning more rapidly from cognitive dissonance, them and Alaska. I sure wish they’d be a bit more American and a bit less… Strange. C’mon back into the Union, boys (and girl), the water’s fine!
          I’m also heartened that smaller groups and individuals are doing this than mega entities like T Boone – he’s too slick by half and his pulling out makes me think that whatever scam he was contemplating didn’t quite make the numbers he was hoping for. So yay for whomever designed the program to winnow out sharks like that while making it attractive enough for mom-and-pop ranchers and individuals to participate.
          And (cough) I’m unsure if we can be held responsible when we post reasonably and on-topic when the unwashed swarms hijack a thread. I think that’s why they call it “hijacking”. Err, “hjckng”.
          Tho, loves your nomenclature: “Th NR ncdnt” is brilliant!

          • Con Seannery says:

            @Trai_Dep: Hey, now. I like Boone’s plan, I can’t stand our dependency on foreign energy. Now, you all know I don’t buy into global warming being man-made, but I can get behind this. I’m all for domestic energy, and if it’s clean, that’s all the better. Anything to bolster our power network to the point where we can cut out some foreign energy. Whether that’s with Boone’s plan to take the NG we use on power and put it in the trucks, electric cars, whatever. Just make it here, it’s a national security issue. Not to mention, this being done by people rather than companies puts a degree of self-sufficiency in some of our homes, and that’s a good thing to have.

            • gaywolverine says:

              @Con Seannery: You dont buy into global warming being man made? yeah, because a moron like you knows more than EVERY scientific study that has been done that was not funded by big oil or energy.

              • Con Seannery says:

                @gaywolverine: EVERY? Excuse me, sir. The fallacy with many of the studies (government and special-interest funded, I might add) is that they assume the added CO2 is having an effect, which is unproven. Then, take into account the natural climate cycles on Earth (there’s a 1500 year cycle. Guess what was 700-800 years ago? THE PEAK WARM PERIOD!) and you’ve got yourself nature doing what it’s been doing for thousands of years and modern science freaking out over it, not to mention all of the groups that stand to profit from this panic. And in regards to your next comment, I do like the lottery, but, if you would step back for a moment and think rather than mindlessly turning this respectful discussion into a flame war, you would consider that the promise that wins people over to the idea of a state lottery is the money going towards education. This implies that there is ADDITIONAL money going to the schools, and could, in fact, hurt the school system if people and businesses, because of the lottery, don’t see fit to give to the school system on top of their taxes.

        • katstermonster says:

          @MostlyHarmless: hh y’r s rght. tht wld b fnny!

    • GearheadGeek says:

      @MostlyHarmless: I fail to see the humor. I’d rather see someone take an income tax credit for installing a windmill that helps both their bottom line and takes some load off the coal-and-gas-fired electrical grid than for buying a new H2, which they were able to do under the last administration.

      • bwcbwc says:

        @GearheadGeek: I think the joke is that “rural Texans” probably voted against Obama and the idea of federal subsidies for “green” energy.

        • GearheadGeek says:

          @bwcbwc: Ah… well, to be truthful you’d have to say that “rural Texas DISTRICTS voted for McCain” because after the Perrymandering, it’s damned difficult for a district to go Dem.

          Individual Texans aren’t evil… it’s just that as a group we’ve been dumb enough to elect W governor and then follow him up with Perry. I still miss our tough-talkin’, Harley-straddlin’ alkie granny governor Ann Richards.

          • Trai_Dep says:

            @GearheadGeek: Ann Richards was a hoot, sharp as a whip and a real Texan in all her glory. She did your republic proud. Pretty much the opposite of All Hat, No Cattle.

          • faintandfuzzies says:

            @GearheadGeek: Anne was a liar too, so why go down that road. She was the one that sold us down river with claims that the lottery would put a great deal of money into the school systems. Prove to me that happened!

            • GearheadGeek says:

              @faintandfuzzies: The lottery’s books indicate that by Feb 2009 they’d transferred $11 billion to the Foundation School Fund. I’m neither a forensic accountant nor do I possess tremendous amounts of documentation from the Lottery Commission, so I suggest you prove to your own satisfaction whether or not that is true. I’d say the bigger problem is that the state government has offset the Lottery’s contributions by cutting other contributions to school funding, not that the Lottery Commission hasn’t actually paid into the fund. Even many people who didn’t care for Ann Richards agree she was better for Texas and Texans than the subsequent 2 have been.

            • Con Seannery says:

              @faintandfuzzies: But the problem with most of these lotteries (I’m not from Texas, so I can’t talk about your case specifically) is that the money DOES go to the schools, but because of that, the same amount from the tax revenue that would have gone to schools goes elsewhere.

              • gaywolverine says:

                @Con Seannery: Which means prisons, highways, police, fire, and state parks get that money instead. Why would that be bad. If you dont like the lottery DONT PLAY IT. It is a simple solution.

  7. ChuckECheese says:

    This comes just in time for Texas, because it takes a lot of energy to make chicken fried steak, and I hear the oil situation has gotten so bad in TX that Halliburton is importing it from Iraq.

    Modern windmills aren’t charming. They’re big and quite noisy. They have maintenance costs. You’ll want yours as far away from the house as possible.

    • katstermonster says:

      @ChuckECheese: But they’re sleek and pretty!

      Not gonna lie. As an engineer, I have to say turbines of any kind are the sexiest-looking machines. <3

    • GearheadGeek says:

      @ChuckECheese: They’re not all THAT noisy, especially here. The article notes (and my experience concurs) that they’re about as noisy as an AC compressor. If it happened to be POWERING said compressor, the noise wouldn’t bother me a bit. After our scumbag part-time legislature sold out to Enron and the rest of their ilk and brought us the wonders of deregulated electricity, it seems to make more economic sense every year to produce some of ones own electricity in Texas.

      • GearheadGeek says:

        @GearheadGeek: PS: And I say “especially here” because walking down the street in Texas in this part of the year, one hears AC units all the time. ALL the time. It’s 87 outside already at 09:45, on its way to 104 if the weather guys are right. Weather guys have it easy in Texas in the summer. “It’s gonna be hot!”

    • raleel says:

      @ChuckECheese: have you actually stood under one? I have. I live in an area with a lot of wind mills and have stood directly under it while in operation. My computer fan makes as much noise.

      • Trai_Dep says:

        @raleel: If ChuckECheese hasn’t stood under one, as you have, he has some explaining to do…
        I’ve seen TV programs where the crew is below one and it seems the wind hitting the blades makes more noise. Glad to see it’s that way in real life. Thanks!

        • ChuckECheese says:

          @Trai_Dep: Maybe these baby windmills are quieter than the ones I’ve seen & heard. You better get a cat or dog to scarf up the dead birds.

          • mrscoach says:

            @ChuckECheese: Where we live ther are a LOT of wind turbines. I have been around them and even been inside the base of one. The only time I heard one was when they turned it off and it sounded like a plane powering down beause of the ends of the blades turning to slow down and stop the rotation. I’m talking about the whine you hear inside the plane, not the actual roaring of the jet engine.

            As for the dead birds, it isn’t as much of a problem as some would like it to sound. These turbines aren’t turning at high rates of speed, so it isn’t like they’re cutting the birds out of the air. I have seen birds fly into stationary objects, should we get rid of houses and poles, too? Birds are stupid, hence the term “bird brain” and die all the time for stupid reasons.

    • ARP says:

      @ChuckECheese: Well, if you had a choice between a coal fired plant at the end of your block or some scattered windmills, which would you choose? I see your point though. However, there are different designs of windmills that aren’t that bad. As others have posted, their noise is no greater than AC compressors or other background noise.

    • pot_roast says:

      @ChuckECheese: As someone that lives in Texas and has seen several of these, I can safely say that you’re completely wrong. Take a look at the SkyStream units. They’re small and efficient.

    • NikkiSweet says:

      @ChuckECheese: We have several on my parents ranch… they’re not loud at all. The one closest to the house/barn is the oldest/noisest, and unless you’re actively listening for it, you don’t hear it.

  8. AllanG54 says:

    One kilowatt certainly isn’t much. That’s 10 100 watt light bulbs, not even enough to run a toaster oven or a blow dryer.

    • GearheadGeek says:

      @AllanG54: If you have some sort of storage and make intelligent choices about energy usage, you can do quite a bit with 1 kW. How many 100-watt lightbulbs do you NEED to run at once, after all? Someone concerned enough to have a wind turbine might also be smart enough to turn off lights they’re not using, and use CFLs to conserve power for other uses.

    • ARP says:

      @AllanG54: If you’re using regular incandescents, then yes. If you use CFL’s or LED’s, then you can probably light your whole house. I don’t know that these wind farms will allow someone to be completely self-sufficient, but individually and collectively, it can save a lot of money.

      If we combine that with conservation efforts, we can save even more. Not just in direct costs, but indirect costs- fighting wars to secure oil supplies, being friendly with counties that hate us, slowing down environmental damage, etc. And those indirect costs can be bigger than the direct costs.

    • Trai_Dep says:

      @AllanG54: No magic wands, unfortunately. So every bit helps, and this is one arrow in the quiver.

    • Elcheecho says:

      @AllanG54: also, a 1KW turbine generally doesn’t put out that much consistently. However, it should work at night, at which time your 100 lights will be off and the power goes to charging batteries.

  9. bwcbwc says:

    If your electric company charges $0.12/kWh, a kW generator can save you up to $2.88/day or about $85 a month. But that would be if the windmill was going full-speed all the time and you had productive use for all that energy.

    Personally, I’d like to couple a 1 or 2 kW mill with a similar bank of solar panels to make a serious dent in the peak AC usage.

    • GearheadGeek says:

      @bwcbwc: The beauty of that is that if that became common practice, electric utilities could also benefit by not having to have so much excess capacity. Solar and wind both tend to be more effective in the daytime, which is also when most electric utilities experience their peak demand. If lots of their customers were having cogeneration peaks at the same time, it levels the load and lets the electric utility be more efficient, because they often waste lots of power and/or generate power less efficiently to handle demand cycles.

      • sponica says:

        @GearheadGeek: although peak demand varies by locality….I looked into ConEd’s off peak program (you pay less if you use more electricity during off peak hours vs peak hours) and Brooklyn is firmly in the peak hours being in the early morning and late evening, you know when people are home bc they’re not at work.

    • gaywolverine says:

      @bwcbwc: Actually some states have set what the extra wind or solar power is sold back to the utility at. It can be 3 to 4 times the rate they charge. So while your house is empty and you are at work using little power, you are selling it to the power company, at higher rates than you are charged.

  10. Winteridge2 says:

    Really nice windmill photo. T. Boone is MY MAN! If only they would listen to him.

  11. Robert E. Hodge says:

    There is a model of Windmill that stands about 8 ft high. It has 3 vanes in a vertical arrangement that spins on its axis. I think it was profiled on the PBS show “This Old House”.
    These are Bird friendly as well. And do Not need to stand over 100 ft high either.
    Looked like the Couseu ship on National Geographic s.

  12. FrankReality says:

    I do have a rural home on a small acreage which has an good wind survey. I have looked at small wind and solar for almost a decade. The economics are a small loss or break-even at today’s rates. An 80 ft. tower would be a good windmill height and the south-facing roof of our machine shed is darned near perfect for solar. The shed can also protect the electronic gear.

    The problem is my wife, who doesn’t want to install anything that requires ten years to pay back, because she doesn’t feel we will be on the place 10 years from now. I could probably get her to buy into it if the payback was reduced to 3 to 4 years.

    Wind in my Minnesota climate is a challenge because it is a mechanical device which seem to need significant maintenance and wear/tear work. There are a bunch of small wind generators in the area and many are not operational even in ideal winds. Wind is also a buy it all at once type of deal.

    Solar seems to require less maintenance (although here you have to keep the panels clear of snow), but one advantage is that you don’t have to buy the whole system at once. You can buy a panel and the electronics one year, and then add a panel or two every year until you have it completed. By adding panels gradually, you are able to leverage potential technology improvements and can also leverage cost reductions. Sort of the solar panel equivalent of dollar-cost averaging.

    • OneTrickPony says:

      @FrankReality: Even if you think you might move in a shorter time frame, the right sort of investment in green/self-sufficient technologies might be a strong selling point for certain buyers. Thus, some of your investment might be also recouped through increased value on your property, even if you were to sell before you fully recouped your costs on energy savings alone.