Judith Wood wishes to heck she would have known she was going to lease a windmill.
The Ransomville resident just recently had to replace her furnace and it would have really been great to have saved the cash she’s been spending on fuel oil, which is “so blasted expensive.” It would have been so much better to go all-electric in her household, especially with her new windmill spinning up a flurry of power in the back 40 acres.
Wood recently leased a windmill from a company called United Wind, which has just started leasing single-home turbines throughout Niagara County, the first company in the country to lease wind turbines to end-users.
“The quick bottom line here is that by leasing a wind turbine, these homeowners and farmers are saving upward of half on their electric bill,” said Colin Mahoney, a spokesperson for the six-month old company. “Their electric bill is fixed for 20 years.”
The plan is loosely based on the rooftop solar model, except that the wind turbines take up significant less property. There is, however, a minimum property size required for the installation.
“Usually you need a minimum of five acres and at least 500-foot frontage,” explained Joseph Yurcisin, vice president of sales for the company. Typically there is no money down required and the company handles all the permits needed, he said.
As a new windmill lease-holder, Wood says that representatives of the company attended several planning board meetings with her to explain to officials what would occur when the leased windmill was installed.
There were some neighbors, she said, who expressed concern over the noise, as well as what they worried was the unhealthy flicker effect of the windmill panels passing across the sunlight. Those resisting windmills across the country also often mention their concern that birds can be killed by the blades. Since the windmill was installed, Wood’s neighbors have not spoken to her. She shrugged when asked about their reaction. “They’ll get over it.”
The 153-foot tall windmill is usually silent, she said recently, while standing in her back field near the base of the windmill. The blades circled quietly in the gentle breeze as she talked. She said the windmill was only noisy once since she had it installed about a few weeks ago, when the wind picked up and the brakes kicked in to slow the blades, making a sound like a flag flapping in the wind, only louder.
Meanwhile, she’s saving a little bit of money each month on her lease, for which she pays about $179 a month. The company now pays her electric bill, so some months, she’ll be saving almost $100 on electricity. She hopes to begin seeing real savings within a few years as she converts more of her household power to electric.
Another Niagara County resident hoping to lease a windmill is Kelly Strade, owner of Serendipity Farms, a small horse boarding facility in Cambria.
Strade, who owns 40 acres, looked into getting solar power for her farm a couple of years ago but it proved to be too costly, much like her current propane system. Her quest to lease a windmill is the result, she said, of the perfect storm which began after she received a postcard from United Wind in July.
“Ironically a couple weeks before that, my air conditioning went,” she said. “Also, my furnace is about 15 years old and I was looking at a system that was all completely electric that could both heat and cool my house.”
Her new zone heating and cooling system will be installed in September, but she won’t be able to lease a windmill until it is approved by both the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, and the Cambria town planning board.
While she waits, her dad, a plumber, has helped her replace the water heaters in her house and barn with tankless systems. “I’m going to reap benefits either way,” she said.
She estimated that about 90 percent of her electric bill would be offset by the windmill and dismissed opposition to windmills in general. “I went to college in Vermont. I have a tendency to be pretty pro-environment,” she said.
“I feel like the benefits of the windmill far outweigh the costs,” she added. “Being able to capture nature like using the energy of Niagara Falls or using wind power, makes perfect sense to me.”