With his wind generator turning in the background, Herb Bartel takes satisfaction with the experiment he and Nick King are running at his farm northeast of Hillsboro.
Since 1982, Nick King has installed solar thermal water and air heating systems?systems that improve the efficiency of two of the most energy-intensive processes at work in most households.
He has recently expanded his business to include the installation of wind turbines, like the one local farmer Herb Bartel recently installed.
Bartel said he and wife Patricia decided to install the generator because they believe taking quick action to limit their own dependence on carbon-based energy may help reduce the worldwide damage scientists insist will be caused by global warming over the next 100 years.
?The way we look at the wind turbine is, it?s a way to reduce the amount we require from the baseload,? Bartel said. ?But to really understand why we put in the windmill, you need to study what is happening in Gaines?ville, Fla.?
Recognizing that few renewable energy systems currently produce electricity at a cost comparable to that produced at coal-fired power plants, Gainesville uses a ?feed-in tariff? to subsidize numerous small-scale, city-wide, private investments in renewable electricity production at the direct expense of large utility companies.
Bartel?s hope is that as the number of renewable energy producers rises, the cost of electricity from renewable sources will decline enough to compete effectively against coal and other fossil fuel sources, regardless of what the federal government does.
With Congress considering a law that would cause carbon-powered electricity prices to rise sharply in coming decades, Bartel believes an early investment in wind power may become profitable in the near future.
But for now, profitability comes second?for Bartel, meeting the ethical obligation he feels to protect the quality of the land he lives on comes first.
While King recognizes that global warming is raising the same ethical issues, he said investing in wind-generated electricity may already be profitable for those living outside the cities of Marion County.
?To put in a turbine, it has to be in an open area, 250 feet away from and 20 to 30 feet above the nearest obstruction,? he said. ?It needs an open space to avoid catching turbulence and to avoid having something block the wind.
?And, it needs to have an average wind speed of at least 12 mph, which we do have in the Hillsboro area,? he added. ?Out in western Kansas, it is 15 to 16 mph and in the Flint Hills it is more like 13 to 14 mpg.
?So, it?s better in the Flint Hills and better in western Kansas, but it?s pretty good here.?
His turbines, manufactured by a company in New Mexico, are rated to produce 400 to 500 kilowatts per month, he said.
?At 10 cents per kilowatt, it?s worth $40 to $50 per month on your utility bill,? he said.
King installed Bartel?s turbine on a 45-foot pole and configured monitoring software on Bartel?s computer to check and adjust for changes in wind speed and to document the turbine?s output.
He said a similar installation would cost between $16,000 and $18,000, and has a 20-year lifetime.
Tax advantages to the tune of a 30 percent credit, plus the value of the structure as a depreciating business expense, may lessen the cost for some buyers, both up front and over time.
?I?ve been in the solar business for 20 years, I?m hoping to get more into the wind business,? he said.
King?s primary business focuses on installation of solar space heating and solar water heaters, which he said can typically reduce utility bills by $30 per month.
He also offers efficiency evaluations and creates custom systems.
Details about these systems can be found on his Web site (kings-solar-wind-plumbing.com/solar.html), and he can be reached for business calls at 316-265-8568.