When driving west out of Dagsboro on Nine Foot Road, it’s hard to miss the big wind turbine on the right at the home of Greg and Terri Menoche.
Greg Menoche always dreamed of hearing the “clinkety-clank” of an agricultural windmill, and after reading a magazine article about a company that produces wind turbines for residential use, Menoche got more interested and started to research getting one for his family.
In April, when he got his final approvals, that dream came true — although this modern-day windmill barely hums loudly enough for anyone to hear it.
The wind turbine, the Skystream Model 3.7, now stands erect on the property, about 35 feet off the ground. Menoche, an airline pilot by trade and owner of East Coast Garage Concepts, installed it himself. The pole and the turbine sit on a 7-foot-square concrete pad near his house in the middle of about 150 acres of family-owned farmland.
The turbine is grid-tied with no battery supplement, because they have a generator on-hand and because the batteries were an extra expense. The model’s average output based on an average windspeed of 12.3 mph is 400 kWh per month, which could cut his energy bill by 40 percent or more.
“The way I understand it,” said Menoche. “Power from the grid is like a spigot. As you use less power, it holds power back, and any excess goes back to the grid. We have a net meter that goes into the house that does two things: one, it slows down the pull from the grid, and two: when you produce excess power, it provides you with a credit, and when that credit hits $100, they pay you. It can happen — I’m not going to get there yet, but it can happen.”
Menoche stressed that the less power that is used, the more efficient the wind turbine is. He said that he has always been interested in saving where he can.
“Right now we use about 1,000 k/w hours a month. And alarm clocks just sit there and draw electricity 23 hours and 59 minutes a day, just beeping for that one minute before you hit it to turn it off, and we have three of those. I’m going to get rid of them. I am going to do anything I can,” he said.
Menoche said the reasons behind his desire to implement the wind turbine were to help the environment and to help people become independent.
“You know the three Rs? Reduce, reuse, recycle? Well, it should be four Rs, to include ‘renewable.’ If we can use the resources that God gave us while reducing our energy costs and carbon footprint, it is win-win.”
Menoche has gotten a lot of feedback from passing motorists and neighbors.
“They love it,” he said. “They think it’s fantastic it’s producing its own electricity.”
The wind turbine itself is made out of a fiberglass composite and sits on a pole that weighs 800 pounds. The pole is hinged to the concrete pad and can be lowered for maintenance. Just one wire is plugged into the home’s circuit breaker.
An extra that is available is a remote antenna that sits on top of the turbine to gauge extra data about wind production. According to Menoche, because he owns more than 5 acres, the only permits he needed were for the concrete pad the pole sits on and a building permit for the wind turbine itself.
Homeowners with 5 acres or less have to pay a non-refundable $400 fee to Sussex County to apply for a special conditional-use permit, in addition to getting any special permission they might need from their municipality or homeowner’s association — a complication that some area businesses and lawmakers are now trying to eliminate, as it eats into any incentives offered by the state’s Green Energy Program.
A project similar to Menoche’s, with a 33-foot tower, the Skystream 3.7 turbine, J-bolts, concrete, rebar, set-up, installation and permits might cost around $10,500, plus the cost of an electrician. The customer can expect a green energy rebate from the state of Delaware up to 50 percent of that cost, depending on the average wind speed for their area. For customers with less than 5 acres, permit costs could be higher.
Menoche estimates that within five years or so, the costs involved with purchasing and installing his windmill will have paid for themselves, although some financial gain has already been seen in making the move early.
“The pole I bought is already selling for $300 more than when I bought it,” Menoche pointed out with a laugh.
“The next step is to get an electrical meter for the basement, to figure out how much power it’s producing,” explained Menoche. He plans to eventually get solar power hooked up as well.
“At first, my wife wasn’t into it, but she gets excited when the wind is blowing and [the meter] stays on the same number or goes down,” he said.
“I like it when it’s spinning,” added wife Terri with a laugh.
Menoche pointed out that his particular kind of setup cannot be used as a electrical back-up in electrical outages as a safety precaution.
“Any excess goes back to the grid, so during a storm or if there was an accident involving a utility pole, it can’t be used a back-up, out of concerns for the workers at the power company,” he noted.
“It’s super-cool. Sometimes I’ll just sit out here with my tea or water and just watch it turn,” Menoche added with a smile.
Because of the flexibility with his schedule as a pilot and already being a business owner, Menoche now plans to capitalize on his entrepreneurial interests and experience by installing wind turbines. For more information on his business, call (302) 462-5251.
For more information on the Skystream 3.7, visit www.skystreamenergy.com online. For more information on Delaware’s Green Energy program — which provides cash incentives for the installation of renewable energy systems — visit http://www.delaware-energy.com/green-energy-program-home.htm online.