The thought of wind turbines in Iowa often conjures up images of the towering, majestic turbines along Interstate 80, their arms’ deliberate revolutions hypnotic.
But another kind of turbine is also spinning on farms and residences across the state. Here in southwest Iowa, its revolution’s less plane-like and more wind chime-esque.
Eric Lantz, co-owner of PowerTech Renewable Energy, has another comparison for the vertical-axis turbines his company sells.
“They’re like an eggbeater,” Lantz said. “They’re smaller than the commercial ones.”
PowerTech sells Windspire vertical axis turbines to small businesses and individual residences, in addition to selling solar heating systems. According to Windspire’s website, the turbines are 30-feet tall and 4-feet wide.
Lantz, who shares the ownership title with Richard Henry, said that PowerTech was born out of necessity and the changing landscape of energy in the United States.
The partners operated InterWest Services together for the past 20 years, a company Henry created 30 years ago. InterWest specialized in machine building for local industries.
“We were losing those industries, so we moved into renewable energy, as well,” Lantz said.
PowerTech was born of that necessity one year ago, Lantz said. The company still works in machine fabrication, but the majority of business has shifted to renewable energy.
“The big push is toward renewable energy,” Lantz said. “There has been quite a bit of increased revenue from wind turbine sales. I think we might have closed if we hadn’t added renewable energy, so this has kept us going.”
The Windspire turbine doesn’t have the propellers synonymous with most wind turbines. Accordnig to the company’s website, they generate power when wind blows vertical airfoils, causing them to spin. The power of the push is converted to AC electricity and transmitted to the home or business power source.
PowerTech (and InterWest) operated out of Red Oak until January, when Lantz and Henry found a patch of land in the country between Carson and Macedonia.
“We think there’s more potential in Pottawattamie County. I think there’s a lot more interest (here),” Lantz said.
Lantz said with little to no advertising thus far, the company has already sold three turbines in the county. Depending on a few variables, including location, the turbines generally run from $12,000 to $15,000.
There is a 30 percent federal income tax credit available, cutting the cost down considerably.
With turbines of this size, owners work with power companies to stay on the grid. Lantz said that the companies PowerTech works with, Mid-American Energy and the Nishnabotna Valley Rural Electric Cooperative, offer a net-metering policy.
The policy puts owners of small turbines on the grid, with any un-used power put back on the grid, to be used later by the owner. One Windspire turbine is designed to cover about 25 to 30 percent of a person’s electric bill per month, Lantz said.
“It’s a good way to take control of some of your power usage,” Lantz said. “On a windy day, you’re generating more power than you’re using, which means you’re basically turning the meter backward.”
Lantz said he feels the future is bright for wind and sun energy, especially with the recent surge in environmental consciousness across the country and with the possibility of cap and trade legislation from Congress.
The legislation would put a threshold at which companies could emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, then allow companies that are over-polluting to buy credits from companies that are under the “cap.”
“If cap and trade goes through, power could cost twice what it does now,” Lantz said. “I think you’ll see more and more interest in turbines as power costs more and more.”