SQLServerCentral Editorial

The December 2008 Energy Update


Mariah Power Vertical Wind TurbineIf you've read these updates for any length of time you know that I'm very interested in wind power and we've considered putting up some type of wind turbine here at the ranch. The past year, with rising energy costs, has inspired lots of other places to consider wind power and this has even extended to universities. The picture at the right is a Mariah Power vertical-axis turbine and Quinnipiac University has placed an order for 42 of these for their campus in Hamden, CN. They are supposed to generate 84,000kw of power per year, which should offset quite a bit of costs for a facility that tends to run 24x7.

One of the reasons that we haven't done anything here at the ranch is the payback time and large initial investment. I haven't heard back from my neighbor on the value he's getting from his across the last 6 months, but when I calculated things out it seemed that I was looking at a 7-9 year payback. That could be as low as 5 years if energy prices were to substantially rise, but the initial investment along with concerns about how durable and long lasting the newer turbines are have made my wife and I a little concerned about moving forward. Here's another interesting one from Swift, if you're interested.

There was an investment tax credit that passed this year allowing for 30% of the cost of a small-wind turbine up to $4000 (or $500/0.5kw). That changes the economics slightly and I'll work through some numbers in the next few months.

I was flipping through a few tweets recently and saw that Joe Webb had to crawl under his old farm house in Tennessee to thaw some pipes one morning and coincidentally saw an article about someone that is building a super-insulated home, which is something that I've considered. Actually it's a renovation to an older home that wasn't performing well. There's a blog as well if you're interested in following along. I pinged Joe, but no word on whether he wants to add two layers of insulation to his abode.

However the article mentions that it is estimated that worldwide 30-40% of global energy use is from heating and cooling of buildings. That seems like a lot of power spent on heating and cooling, but if it's true then I definitely think we should be doing things differently. I understand that additional rules and regulations are a pain when building, but I also know that so many developers build for the lowest cost and not necessarily worrying about efficiency. Perhaps a few more requirements to incorporate better insulation, passive solar techniques, and other smarter building ideas would substantially reduce the power required to operate buildings.

And maybe slow down a bit of the massive building that seems to take place in many areas.

There are builders that are working on building better houses, including Built Green Colorado, but we also need to ensure that older homes are upgraded and fixed to be more efficient. It's easy for us to take advantage of the lowest cost items out there, whether they be appliances or insulation, not considering the longer term costs. Without regulation of some sort, I'm not sure we'll move forward and make more energy efficient and energy conscious decisions.

Late Update: Since I wrote this and shot the podcasts, I saw this note about passive houses in Europe, which don't have furnaces. At a 5-7% premium, I think that this is something all builders should be considering. Remove the furnace, go more passive, could drastically change building for residences at least.

Steve Jones

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