Illinoisans turning to personal wind turbines

Travis Morse

When he set out to build a new house last summer on his farm, Mike Thill of rural Lena wanted the residence to be as "green" as possible.

For this reason, he had a personal wind turbine built on the property to help supplement the electricity his family uses.

Stephenson County zoning officials say Thill is one of four county residents who recently have opted to build turbines on their property to generate electricity.

"We are concerned about the environment," Thill said of himself and his wife, Vicki. "We try to do our part. I think we all have to do our part."

Thill was able to install a 35-foot-high turbine on his property after the county approved his building permit. He purchased the turbine for around $10,500 from Troy Rudy of rural Freeport.

Rudy is a local dealer for Southwest Windpower, a manufacturing firm out of Flagstaff, Ariz. Rudy also installed the turbine on Thill's property.

Generating Power

The turbine on Thill's property has been up and running since late October 2007. At its maximum capacity, the turbine generates around 2.4 kilowatts of electricity from wind speeds of 25 mph. At average wind speeds of 15 mph, the turbine generates around 1.8 kilowatts.

Thill said he has already seen a decrease in his electricity costs.

Prior to the turbine, Thill's electric bills were more than $400 a month. In December 2007, Thill's heating and electric bill was only around $288. Thill also has a geothermal furnace at his new home that runs off of electricity.

"I was very pleased," Thill said.

More Common

Terry Groves, director of planning and zoning for the county, said the personal wind turbines are becoming more common in this area and the region. At up to 70 or 80 feet tall, the personal turbines are well suited to the county's agricultural district, Groves said.

"It's kind of a trend," Groves said. "Some of them are no higher than an old windmill."

Rudy put up a turbine on his own property in June 2007. He then decided to start his own dealership.

He said he has so far sold and installed three wind turbines in the area, including locations in rural Lena, Jo Daviess County, and Franklin Grove.

Rudy expect personal wind turbine use to grow, especially after the state approves proposed legislation that would provide financial incentives to residents who use such turbines to power their homes.

Personal wind turbines at around 35 feet tall usually range in price from $10,000 to $12,000, depending on the manufacturer and size, he said. Not only are these turbines better for the environment, but they can also save residents money in the long run on electricity costs, Rudy said.

"You can see a payback as soon as five to six years or eight to 10 years," Rudy said. "It all depends on where you're located and how much electricity you use."

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