In the spring of 2008, Mark Runquist, his wife, Linda Barnes, and their three school-age children had a 70-foot-tall wind turbine installed on their seven-acre organic farm near Melbourne, Iowa. "We had been thinking about installing a turbine for over five years before we took the plunge," Runquist says. "We had already managed to produce most of our food organically, but sustainable energy was a noticeable gap in our footprint."
After tax credits, the turbine cost about $10,000 and produces between one-fourth and one-half of the family's electric use depending on the month, Runquist says. "Everyone wants to know: How much money will I save? Or how long will it take to pay back the initial cost of the turbine?" Runquist says. "I usually answer them with another question: 'Can you tell me how much electric rates will be one, five and 10 years from now?' Or another question: 'With the uncertainty of the stock market and other investments, can you think of a better way to spend your money where, instead of paying the power company every month for electricity, you are instead paying toward a tangible asset that you own and are reducing your future expenses?'"
While not every family can install their own wind turbine on their property, Runquist says there are things you can do to generate your own energy. "Whether it be a geothermal heating/cooling system, a wind turbine, solar electric or solar/thermal system, I would highly recommend that some sort of sustainably generated energy source should be part of every household," he says. "Every time I drive home and see the turbine spinning over the farmstead, it puts a smile on my face!