Wind turbine will cut cost of power at straw-bale home – Guelph Mercury

By Hilary Stead

The answer to how much money Ben Polley will save on electricity next year is blowing in the wind.

Polley watched Tuesday as a group of volun­teers installed a 900-watt wind turbine beside the energy-efficient, straw-bale “Home Alive” he and a band of volunteers are building at the Everdale Environmental Learning Centre in Hillsburgh. in Erin Township.

Like most other aspects of the Home Alive pro­ject. the wind turbine was a group effort, pur­chased with donations from local groups, includ­ing the retail branch of Guelph Hydro, Toronto Dominion Friends of the Environment and the Mountain Equipment Co-op. It was installed by a class of wind energy “trainees” as part of a four- day wind energy course they are taking this week at Everdale.

“People are just sick and tired of paying hydro bills,” said Dave Cooke, owner of True North Power Systems of Lion’s Head in the Bruce Peninsula. Cooke donated the turbine, the tower and other parts, worth about $10,000, and on Tues­day was on hand as John Hogg of Free Breeze En­ergy Systems in Harriston taught a group of stu­dents how to do the installation.

“I like the hands-on,” said Peter Kofler, a Kitch­ener engineer who used to work in mainstream housing design and construction but gave it up to investigate environmentally friendly alternatives such as wind energy, solar power and straw bale construction. Now he helps build houses with Habitat for Humanity

He sees the potential for that organization to learn from Polley’s ideas because so much of Habitat’s work is done by large teams of volun­teers.

“I think it would be ideally suited to Habitat for Humanity,” said Kofler, who took the solar power and straw bale workshops earlier this year and signed up for the wind energy course to add to his new set of skills.

The Lakota Wind Turbine installed Tuesday is relatively small. Cooke said it will provide about 20 per cent of the home’s electrical needs, al­though Polley is hoping that together with the “photo voltaic” solar panels the home will be largely energy self-sufficient. On days when strong winds produce more energy than the home can use, the extra energy will go out on the main grid for public consumption.

Although the Everdale turbine is small, Cooke has lots of customers who are investing in 5,000- watt turbines, combined with solar systems, to stay off the grid year-round.

Wellington County is not known for high winds, so the potential of wind generation is not as great as it is closer to the Great Lakes.

Home Alive was the first prefabricated straw bale home in Canada. The walls were constructed last winter in a Guelph warehouse by a group of volunteers and erected in April at the National Home Show in Toronto.

After the show; the home was transported to its permanent location at Everdale. A rough ride by transport truck caused a few cracks in the walls, but work is continuing to finish the walls and add the environmentally efficient indoor and outdoor fixtures, systems and landscaping. A grand open­ing scheduled for September may have to be rescheduled for next spring.

Everdale manager Lynn Bishop told visitors Tuesday that it can be difficult keeping up with Polley, who has also launched a bio-diesel fuel company and is the Green Party candidate for Guelph-Wellington.

Home Alive and other parts of the Everdale centre are open to the public for visits between May and October. Volunteers are also accepted to work on home building and landscaping.