Return to story
Roger Cavendish recently installed a wind turbine in his backyard to power his home.
Whenever the breeze picks up, Roger Cavendish saves money.
At 8 mph, the wind starts spinning a turbine in his backyard, generating electricity to power his Caroline County home.
Twelve mph or greater is the best speed for production, but once started, the turbine will keep churning out electricity even if the breeze drops to a mere 3 mph.
Cavendish, who owns a masonry company, recently installed a 33-foot-high wind turbine to help power his 4,000-square-foot home in Milford.
Over time, he's confident the one-time $7,400 investment will not only pay off, but also will contribute to a nationwide green movement.
He says there's no maintenance and, unlike paying workers to drill for oil or run a power plant, this technology is a one-time task.
"Once it's in the ground, it's finished," Cavendish said. "Your expenditure is finished."
It took a county permit, two hours to dig a hole, 28 days to let the concrete sit and a few hours to install the turbine. Then he just waited for the wind.
That didn't take long. Cavendish points to the slight lean in the trees along the right side of his brick home near the turbine as proof that his property gets a consistent breeze. October through May are the best months.
Cavendish said he's the only resident in Caroline to have a wind turbine powering his home and a connection to a power grid. Rappahannock Electric Coopera-tive and Dominion Virginia Power both confirmed his claim.
Cavendish said he'd been considering wind power for years. But the catalyst to install one came this past winter, when his January and February electric bills both topped $400.
He began looking into turbines, and finally got his up and running Aug. 12.
He's still connected to Rappahannock Electric Cooperative lines, using their power when the wind dies down. And if the turbine produces too much electricity for the house, REC uses it and gives Cavendish credit on his next bill.
In case of a power failure, Cavendish's turbine automatically shuts off so reverse power into Rappahannock Electric's lines does not harm workers or people around a fallen line.
"I generate more electricity than Rappahannock Electric Cooperative," he said. "They buy all theirs."
A greater purpose
Cavendish said he supports a plan being advertised nationally by former oilman T. Boone Pickens. The billionaire investor is now promoting windmill-generated power and natural gas as alternative energy sources to help end America's dependence on foreign oil.
Cavendish's lone turbine is a far cry from wind farms proposed across the country, but he thinks he's doing his part to help solve the nation's energy problems.
He said he's not involved in any political efforts to push wind energy, but has strong feelings on the subject.
"In 1978, there was a choice," Cavendish said of an alternative energy plan by President Jimmy Carter to lessen U.S. dependence on foreign oil. "It's not a choice today."
He insists the country has to "get off oil" because fossil fuels will someday run out. The supply of wind, on the other hand, is endless.
"There's so many downsides to fossil fuels," he said. "They justify it by saying it's cheap, but what it's doing to the environment isn't cheap."
spreading wind power
Cavendish admits that he hasn't gone all green. While more motorists are switching to hybrids, he still drives a diesel-powered pickup.
"Truly, I'm as guilty as anyone else for this crisis," he said.
But Cavendish is taking his belief in the power of wind a step further. As co-president of Phoenix Masonry Inc. with his son, he's launching a new division to sell the same kind of wind turbine he uses at home.
He may be onto something profitable with this new venture, which he calls Spotsy Wind Energy.
The American Wind Energy Association reports that sales for small wind turbines went up by 14 percent last year, with more than 9,000 sold.
The group also said on its Web site, awea.org, that "small wind systems in the U.S. displace an estimated 60,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually, the equivalent of taking 10,000 cars off the road."
Cavendish said Spotsy Wind Energy is negotiating with an area home builder to offer turbines as an option for new homes.
"The first week we had it, I'd have two or three cars parked in the driveway," he said of his home turbine.
"Several people are waiting to see the electric bills to see if it will be worthwhile for them."
Corey Byers: 540/735-1976
COST-EFFICIENCY OF TURBINE
Roger Cavendish looked back at his electric bills for each August over the past five years and developed an estimate for what he will save this month with a turbine generating two-thirds of the power for his all-electric home. He plans to track bills for the next year to find out exactly what he's saving annually.
Highest bill (August 2006)
Lowest bill (August 2008)
Estimated bill this month
Total cost of turbine