Inherit the Wind

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We’ll be the first to admit that as we have tracked the burgeoning implementation of wind-powered energy in the past two years, our attention has been focused on the “wind corridor” that stretches through the middle of the country from the upper Great Plains down into Texas. Frankly, New York City and suburban New Jersey do not readily come to mind when the subject is wind power.

But innovators based in the nation’s largest city are aiming to change that perception, and the results of their efforts may be coming soon to a street near us.

Last month, a New Jersey law was enacted regulating small wind energy projects. The measure is designed to facilitate wind energy without interfering with aviation. New Jersey Assembly Bill 3740, which became law Jan. 16, prohibits municipalities from enacting ordinances that “unreasonably limit or hinder” the performance of small wind energy systems. The bill does require those systems to comply with all applicable FAA requirements, including regulations regarding installations close to airports.

The New Jersey law prohibits ordinances such as those that restrict overall height or noise level, require tower setback from neighboring properties, or prohibit such systems entirely in the municipality. It limits the development of small wind energy systems as they relate to aviation by requiring compliance with FAA regulations and all applicable airport zoning regulations. This protects airports and airspace from encroachment.

Across the Hudson on 48th Street in New York City, a firm that bills itself as “a world leader in small wind energy” is gearing up put the New Jersey wind energy statute to the test. Their product offering may literally change the landscape in the Garden State in a unique way that harkens back to a golden era when everyone had a huge TV antenna attached to the roof of every house in the neighborhood.

Urban Green Energy manufactures a home-sized vertical axis wind turbine, which looks a bit like an oversized street light with a fan attached to it. The UGE-4KW is an 18-foot unit that can generate up to 4 kilowatts of power. According to the Edison Electric Institute, the average household runs on about 1.3 kilowatts of power. UGE says the turbine is “quieter than a human whisper,” which makes it more suitable for residential use in suburban areas.

Homeowners may emit more than a whisper when they hear the price tag: currently a hefty $17,000 per turbine. But UGE is quick to point out that each turbine qualified the owner for a 30% federal tax credit; and some states offer additional rebates.

We think this “residential wind farm” idea is going get a big gust of approval from energy-hungry residents of the Garden State. But UGE better move quickly. It won’t be long before some of the local talent hanging around the Museum of Trucking and Industry begins taping used aircraft propellers to telephone poles.

These “Jersey Turbines” will be offered by word of mouth for $1,000 a pop, or perhaps a monthly rental fee of $500, not including vig. Cash transactions only, of course.

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