Article

A powerful feeling

Tim and Robyn Wood don't have to sweat over the electric bills for their Oregon home. More often than not, their utility company - Wisconsin Power & Light of Madison - pays them for electricity. With a 24-panel solar array for electricity, a separate solar panel system for the water heater and a small wind turbine, the Woods' home is still connected to the state's grid of electric transmission lines. But for the most part, the Woods power their own lights, laundry machines, computers, television and other household appliances. "I use power whenever it's cloudy out and there's no wind. But when the wind is blowing and the sun is shining, I make enough power that I can turn my meter backward," Tim Wood said.

Tim and Robyn Wood don't have to sweat over the electric bills for their Oregon home.

More often than not, their utility company - Wisconsin Power & Light of Madison - pays them for electricity.

With a 24-panel solar array for electricity, a separate solar panel system for the water heater and a small wind turbine, the Woods' home is still connected to the state's grid of electric transmission lines. But for the most part, the Woods power their own lights, laundry machines, computers, television and other household appliances.

"I use power whenever it's cloudy out and there's no wind. But when the wind is blowing and the sun is shining, I make enough power that I can turn my meter backward," Tim Wood said.

The Woods' home is one of more than 30 south-central Wisconsin homes and businesses that will welcome visitors this weekend as part of the Wisconsin Tour of Solar Homes & Businesses organized by the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA), of Custer, near Stevens Point.

Associate director Katy Matthai said interest in renewable energy - including solar power - is growing. The organization's annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Living Fair, held in June, drew... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Tim and Robyn Wood don't have to sweat over the electric bills for their Oregon home.

More often than not, their utility company - Wisconsin Power & Light of Madison - pays them for electricity.

With a 24-panel solar array for electricity, a separate solar panel system for the water heater and a small wind turbine, the Woods' home is still connected to the state's grid of electric transmission lines. But for the most part, the Woods power their own lights, laundry machines, computers, television and other household appliances.

"I use power whenever it's cloudy out and there's no wind. But when the wind is blowing and the sun is shining, I make enough power that I can turn my meter backward," Tim Wood said.

The Woods' home is one of more than 30 south-central Wisconsin homes and businesses that will welcome visitors this weekend as part of the Wisconsin Tour of Solar Homes & Businesses organized by the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA), of Custer, near Stevens Point.

Associate director Katy Matthai said interest in renewable energy - including solar power - is growing. The organization's annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Living Fair, held in June, drew 18,400 people, up 7 percent from 2005.

High natural-gas prices and this summer's soaring gasoline prices might have raised awareness, but they are not the main reason people are becoming more interested in alternative energy sources, Matthai said.

"I think more (likely), it's the reliance on foreign fuels that people are concerned about," she said.

That's clearly an issue for Tim Wood, 48, whose pickup truck bears the bumper sticker, "Renewable energy is homeland security."

Behind Wood's 13-year-old, 2,200-square-foot home sits a Wattsun solar tracker that follows the sun as it moves across the sky, producing about 4,300 kilowatt hours of electricity a year. A wind turbine generates an additional 3,600 kilowatt hours a year, Wood said. The solar hot water system, on the roof, heats water for washing and bathing.

The renewable sources were installed two years ago, Wood said, adding, "(They) provide all that we use in our household."

Propane gas fuels the boiler that sends radiant hot water heat through the Woods' home, and most of the light bulbs are fluorescent.

So, when the Woods receive a power bill, it's generally not more than $10 a month. WPL pays the family $60 to $100 a year, for adding their excess power to the grid, Wood said.

Wood also builds energy-efficient homes for others, through his business, Wood Construction of Wisconsin.

In Dane County, 92 buildings have installed solar electric or hot water panels since March 2002. At least, that's how many property owners received rebates for the installations from Focus on Energy, said Don Wichert, director of renewable energy program for the organization, a public-private partnership offering energy information and services.

The main drawback? Even with a rebate, the solar systems are expensive. Wood said his solar tracker cost $29,000 and the wind turbine cost even more.

Still, the benefits to the environment and the feeling of self-reliance make it worthwhile, Wood said.

"I feel great about it," he said. "I'm proud that we're able to do something like this."

Judy Newman
608-252-6156


Source: http://www.madison.com/wsj/...

OCT 4 2006
http://www.windaction.org/posts/5043-a-powerful-feeling
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