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From left, Mark Dunn, sales manager for 6 Star Energy Inc., works with property owner Robert Saddoris and 6 Star employee Mike Tillman to install a 10-kilowatt wind turbine on the Saddoris farm near Debs. Pioneer Photo/Molly Miron

Rural couple erects turbine

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The home of Robert and Opal Saddoris is built on a ridge south of Debs. They have ornamented their property with John Deere artifacts.

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As of Tuesday, they were able to add more yellow and green to their yard. A company from Shenandoah, Iowa, 6 Star Energy Inc., erected a 10-kilowatt Bergey wind turbine to produce the power for their home and garage. To add to the outdoor décor, Opal painted giant yellow and green quilt blocks on the walls of the shed where the DC inverter and electric meter will be housed.

"The price of electricity seems to keep going up and up, and in the future, it's going to go up more," Robert Saddoris said. "Our goal is to lower our electric bill by $100 a month. If this works as well as we think it will, we'll put up another one - hope to make some money."

Mark Dunn, sales manager for 6 Star Energy, said the purchase and installation payback time in electricity savings is five to seven years. According to the Bergey website, a 10kW turbine costs about $31,000, not including installation.

Saddoris said he and his wife are Beltrami Electric Cooperative members. They worked with Sam Mason, Beltrami Electric manager of marketing and communications, in setting up the system.

Mason said Beltrami Electric buys power from about 10 private wind turbine owners. Anyone who is interested applies for generation, and an engineer will check out the equipment to make sure it is safe and compatible with the electrical grid. The company and the private generator then set up a contract.

Mason said Minnesota has a uniform contract arrangement for companies buying power from private generators. Retail customers pay between 8.8 cents and 7.8 cents per kW hour for power, depending on usage. Electric companies buy electricity at that same rate from private generators.

Mason disputed the five- to seven-year payback time on wind generators.

"It's an extremely expensive choice," he said.

For one thing, he said, there is usually a gap between wind turbine owners' expectations and the actual amount of power produced. He added that this part of Minnesota isn't as reliably windy as some of the areas in southern Minnesota where large wind farms have been built.

According to the Bergey brochure, the company's 10kW wind turbine is best suited for residential or commercial properties of at least one acre where the electric bill is more than $150 per month and the wind resource is at least 10 mph.

Small wind turbines qualify for a 30 percent federal tax credit and other governmental benefits.

Mason said the real payback has to be something other than simply financial, and Dunn agreed.

"It's not just about saving a buck," Dunn said. "A lot of people are doing the right thing for the world."

mmiron@bemidjipioneer.com

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