The Energy Appliance

National Geographic is not the magazine it used to be–it’s better. At least when it comes to reporting on natural resource issues, no other magazine can blend the personal, the photographic, and the graphic as well. In this month’s issue, in a warmly-written and highly informative story called "Powering the Future," can be found this exciting new idea:

"…in Flagstaff, Arizona, Southwest Windpower makes turbines with blades you can pick up in one hand. The company has sold about 60,000 of the little turbines, most of them for off-grid homes, sailboats, and remote sites like lighthouses and weather stations. At 400 watts apiece they can’t power more than a few lights.

But David Calley, Southwest’s president, whose father built his first wind turbine out of washing machine parts, is testing a new product he calls an energy appliance. It will stand on a tower as tall as a telephone pole, produce up to two kilowatts in a moderate wind, and come with all the electronics needed to plug it into the house.

Many U.S. utilities are required to pay for power that individuals put back into the grid, so anyone in a relatively breezy place could pop up the energy appliance in the yard, use the power when it’s needed, and feed it back into the grid when it’s not. Except for the heavy loads of heating and air-conditioning, this setup could reduce a home’s annual power bill to near zero. If, as Calley hopes, he can ultimately sell the energy appliance for under $3,000, it would pay for itself with energy savings within a few years.

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