Winds of change|County man plans to harness green power

Published 7:47 pm Monday, July 13, 2009

By By Kerry Whipple Bean

Tony Thomas, as his wife Karen says, has always had a way of thinking ahead of his time.
The Escambia County resident once drove his electric car to the Pizza Hut in Flomaton, and he recycles regularly.
But harnessing the wind to power his home is a dream Thomas has had for years.
So on Tuesday, after weeks of preparation by Thomas, Robert Harris of Gulf Coast Green Power helped install a wind turbine outside the Thomas family’s mobile home on Kilgore Lane in north central Escambia County. It may be the first of its kind at a residence in Alabama — and certainly in Escambia County.
The home sits on just about the perfect piece of county property for a wind turbine – high enough to be able to use the wind power for much of the year.
Thomas is modest about his reasons for installing the turbine. “I just want to save money on my power bill,” he said.
The family’s power bill can be as high as $400 a month in the summer, Karen said.
The purchase of a wind turbine, then, is actually an investment, Harris said.
Purchasing a wind turbine qualifies a homeowner for a 30 percent tax credit, Harris said. And the turbine requires almost no maintenance, he said, which means beyond the cost of installing the equipment, there is virtually no cost associated with the turbine.
Harris’s Fairhope company has installed the same kind of turbine at Lulu’s restaurant in Gulf Shores, where it powers the facility’s Bama Breeze bar.
The turbines were manufactured by Southwest Wind Power in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy, Harris said.
The Thomas home is in a good location for a turbine, Harris said.
The turbine Thomas purchased generates power with winds from 8 mph to 60 mph, but it can withstand winds of up to 140 mph.
The Thomas home will remain on the Southern Pine power grid because the turbine won’t generate power 100 percent of the time. Southern Pine representatives were on hand Wednesday to make sure the generator would work with their power lines.
But Harris said that power will not backfeed into the lines and cause any problems for Southern Pine or its employees, Harris said.
Harris has installed turbines at two other homes in Mississippi, but none at any other residence in Alabama.