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Cape's 1st home wind turbine quietly does its job 

CAPE ELIZABETH — Walking out into his back yard on a chilly March morning, Warren Roos had more to talk about than the weather.

"It's running about two light bulbs right now," he said, looking up at the 50-foot-tall wind turbine dominating his landscape. That's not very good, he said, as the slight whir – like bicycle tires on smooth pavement – picked up a bit. "It gets a lot faster."

After five months with the turbine, Roos said, he's become pretty good at telling how much electricity is coming from the tower at various wind speeds. Today it's slow, he said, but at 18 kilometers per hour things really get going – "and storms are good times."

Since it was erected in November, the turbine has produced about 40 percent of Roos' "juice," he said. He estimated that when the wind calms down over the summer, it will produce about a third of his electricity.

Roos' house, on Kettle Cove Road behind the Maxwell's Farm strawberry fields, is the first in town with a wind turbine. He got the OK to build it from the Town Council last fall after somewhat contentious discussions over whether to allow turbines on residential lots.

The biggest concerns heard by town councilors surrounded noise and the visual impact of a turbine and tower. But the noise, Roos said, is hardly noticeable – especially when it's windy – and he's heard no complaints about anything else.

The lack of attention actually has Roos a little bit disappointed.

"I thought a lot of people would stop and ask about it," he said, but he's only had a smattering of questions. "It's almost like it wasn't ever here."

When strawberries ripen in July, the tower may get a bit more attention – it could eventually be surrounded by berries, if Maxwell's replants the area surrounding the tower. Not a big fan of mowing the lawn, Roos has often let the farm plant over part of his yard.

Whether or not it brings in more questions, Roos said he is still "pretty stoked" about the tower and the toys that come with it, including computer software that tracks what the tower is doing and how much energy it produces. Since the software was installed this winter, Roos said he can estimate he has prevented about 110 pounds of carbon from entering the atmosphere.

"I didn't realize to power a house polluted that much," he said.

But rather than just talk about the "feel-good things," Roos said, "it's actually economically viable to do something like this."

The tower, erected by All Season Home Improvement of Augusta, cost about $17,000 to install. Based on current output and energy prices, Roos estimated it will pay for itself in about 15 years – sooner if energy prices go back up, which Roos said he expects. Not only does the turbine reduce his electricity bills, it actually sometimes produces cash when the power output exceeds his needs.

Though the initial pricetag was a bit of a stretch, Roos said, it made basic sense to install the tower. "This is a windy spot and we'll pollute less, plain and simple," he said. 

Roos has done other things to reduce his carbon footprint and energy bills, including installing compact fluorescent light bulbs, placing insulating film over his windows and keeping the heat turned down to 60 degrees.

"We're not green by any means," he said, "but we do what we can."

When town councilors recently asked him if there was anything the town could do to further support Roos and wind energy, Roos said he had a simple response: "Put one up yourself."

Sarah Trent can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 108 or strent@theforecaster.net.

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