Windpower Creates Energy For Homeowners In Wolf Township
HUGHESVILLE – Back in early fall of 2008, homeowners Mike and Elizabeth Longstreth and neighbors Tom and Nancy Marsh were the first in Wolf Township to apply for a permit for putting up a wind powered residential appliance known as Skystream. At the same time, the Longstreths were building a new home and wanted to install the unit after they saw how it worked as an alternative energy source at the annual home show held earlier that year in Bloomsburg at the Fairgrounds.
“I figured the wind generator would pay for itself after the first seven or eight years,” said Mike. “Over a year’s time, we can save about thirty percent on our electric bill.” It is a self contained unit with a converter built into the head to store excess energy. “It is hooked up to our home through underground wiring to help us reduce our electric bill with PP&L,” said Elizabeth. The meter will kick back if there is an excess of energy according to the Longstreths. Spring and winter are usually high wind months and good for energy storage.
“We preferred this type of energy over solar panels and I was glad that we didn’t need to use batteries for storage. When the wind blows, our home is powered by the wind generator. Our electric meter will spin back for credit later,” said Nancy Marsh, a neighbor and also Elizabeth’s mother.
The Longstreths lived in an old farmhouse on the property prior to building their new home that was completed in March 2009. It was better to apply for all of the permits at once at Wolf Township according to the residents. “the windmill was considered an outside structure so a variance was needed because it was over the height cap of forty feet. The Skystream unit was forty four feet high on a fifty five acre farm. Both owners went to the hearing at the same time.About five or six of the neighbors came to the hearing with concerns.
Mainly they were worried about noise. “We hear the wind, not the windmill,” Elizabeth assured them at the variance hearing.
It is less than thirty to forty decibles and it is designed to provide a quiet and clean energy source in very low winds. It operates at a low RPM and is quieter than trees blowing in the wind according to its manufacturer, Southwest Windpower located in Flagstaff, Arizona. “I told them that it is quieter than a central air conditioning system,” she added.
“A lot of people do notice it and ask about it,” said Nancy Marsh who lived on her farm for thirty three years with her husband. “We have had several people stop by and ask questions.”
No one objected to the windmills once their basic questions were answered, and after the hearing and the arrival of an official letter two weeks later, the homeowners were happy to plan for the generators as a future residential project.
At least one half acre of land is needed for a homeowner to put up a wind generator and the minimum distance should equal the height of the wind appliance which does come in varying heights starting at thirty feet. When the ground thawed, a concrete footer 8 1/2 x 8 1/2 x 4 feet was installed at the end of March on the properties to keep the 800 pound galvanized steel pole intact for each wind generator. A concrete steel cage placed four feet deep was laid in the hole and the couples had to wait three weeks for it to harden before they could dig the trenches for the underground utilities and conduit.
Both windmills were erected at the same time on June 20 of 2009. The poles came in one long piece and the heads of each windmill came separate. The heads weigh about 200 pounds each. The blades that weighed much less (approximately three pounds a piece and about six feet long) came last and were bolted in place. “I helped on this,”said Mike “because I wanted to get a good grasp on the mechanics of it so I can troubleshoot it if necessary.” There is a computer chip in the head of the appliance, so if there is trouble, the company can come with their computer system and tap into the head to determine its fault,” added Longstreth. “But so far we haven’t had any troubles at all. There is a full warranty on the mechanics and it is also covered by homeowner’s insurance. We can get up to 30 percent reimbursement for installation costs on our income tax this year when we file because it will be covered under energy costs. It is also built in the United States which we like,” they said. It can survive winds up to 140 miles an hour. “If we lose power, it will shut itself off and there is a built in safety factor too. So far we are all glad to have done this,” exclaimed the Longstreths and the Marsh’s.