Turbine intended to promote use of wind power

Gord Bontje of Laebon Homes doesn’t know how much he’ll save on his power bills when his wind turbine is up and turning next to his office just west of the city.

Gord Bontje of Laebon Homes doesn’t know how much he’ll save on his power bills when his wind turbine is up and turning next to his office just west of the city.

That’s not the point. He sees the 10-kilowatt turbine project more as a laboratory experiment than a cost-cutting measure.

“Our goal is not to save money. Our goal is to see how the technology works,” said Bontje. In fact, he doubts the electricity savings will offset the $50,000 cost of the turbine.

“It’s an opportunity to demonstrate some alternative energy sources. It’s kind of part of our energy efficiency initiative that we’ve been doing for a number of years.”

Last fall, Laebon opened the doors to its version of net zero, solar-powered home on Landry Close. The home was one of a dozen EQuilibrium homes being built across Canada as part of a Canada Housing and Mortgage Corp. Sustainable Housing Demonstration Initiative.

The 1,450-square-foot home was packed with energy-saving features, including roof-mounted photovoltaic panels to convert sunlight into electricity. Recycled materials were used throughout the home and water use is reduced by 35 per cent with a system that re-uses filtered grey water from showers and dish washers to flush toilets.

The wind turbine is just another chance to check out the latest technology and see what kinds of results it produces.

Once the turbine is running, on windy days it will produce more than enough power to keep the lights on at his 6,000-square-foot office. The remaining power will be directed back to Alberta’s power grid at a pre-set price.

Bontje said he intends to generate power on a small scale. If generation levels rise to a certain point, Laebon would be considered a commercial producer.

“The idea is we’ll just be a small producer and just generate our own electricity.”

Red Deer County council recently gave approval to the project to erect the roughly 12-metre tall turbine in an industrial park next to Hwy 2.

Councillor Reimar Poth said wind turbines are becoming increasingly popular.

“I just got back from a tour of the States, and it didn’t matter what state you were in, they were everywhere,” he said.

“The reality is they are a reasonable alternative to fossil fuels. The problem is they only function when the wind is blowing.

“Certainly they subsidize the existing fuel load and I see them as nothing but a good thing.”

Bontje is lining up the necessary approvals from other levels of government and researching the most suitable turbine for his location. There are a number of manufacturers and different models, including two-bladed and three-bladed turbines.

He expects the project will generate a lot of interest, especially considering the turbine will be seen by tens of thousands of drivers a day.

It may encourage others to make the investment.

“People like being part of the solution, not being part of the problem.”

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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