Sun, Wind Power South Bristol Firm
By ALLISON COOPER/Messenger Post Staff
BRISTOL CENTER— High atop South Hill Road on a 100-acre expanse, two windmills and a dozen solar panels generate more energy than Chris Schaefer’s state-of-the-art business can use.
Schaefer, the owner of Solar and Wind FX Inc., says his business shows that the nation can reduce its dependence on foreign oil and live cleaner and safer on renewable energy. The entire building, including a saw mill, is powered with solar and wind power.
“This is my resume,” said Schaefer, gesturing toward his windmills, panels, the building he has built himself and his man-made pond. He plans to build a home on the property, to be powered with renewable energy as well. The wind-and solar-generated electricity is in the form of direct current (DC). The direct current is then stored in twelve large deep cycle batteries. The battery power is then channeled to a pair of inverters that converts the DC to alternating current (AC).
Schaefer said in the three months his facility has been running, he had used only 104 kilowatts while the average homeowner can use between 700 and 1,200 kilowatts of electricity in the same amount of time.
Schaefer said he wants to teach people about the benefits of energy conservation and solar and wind design and power. An electrical engineer, Schaefer will conduct seminars, perform site surveys for customers and engineer, install and service the systems he sells. He plans to begin classes at his South Hill Road training facility in spring 2003.
Schaefer has offered his services to the town of South Bristol’s Planning Board which is writing regulations for wind turbine farms in response to a Buffalo-based developer’s interest in some 1,200 acres near Schaefer’s home on South Hill Road. The company, Ecogen, has informally proposed building a 15-to 20-turbine wind farm.
South Bristol adopted an eight-month moratorium in July on the development while officials consider regulations including height, setback and ice-throw distances; who would pay to remove abandoned turbines; and banning the use of advertising on the windmills, which may reach as high as 380 feet to the tip of the rotors.
Some residents told the Town Board last spring they were concerned the turbines would ruin the view. But Schaefer contends the wind turbine farm makes sense.
“My picture window (would) have a nice view of the windmills,” said Schaefer of the Ecogen project. “Do I want to look at them — not really, but I know it’s a good thing.”
The industry is unique but growing rapidly, according to Warren Leon, executive director of the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association based in Greenfield, Mass. “This is the direction in which society as a whole needs to go,” said Leon. “What Chris does combines solar and wind training and selling; he’s multi-faceted. It’s a very good opportunity for people to tap into a broader perspective.”
The NESEA is sponsoring a National Solar Home Tour which Schaefer and local homeowners are participating in tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The tour will offer examples of energy conservation measures, such as using clotheslines instead of dryers, as well as energy-producing solar and wind devices, such as those Schaefer uses at his training facility.
“It’s all about education,” Schaefer said from his property, which he believes allows him to be self-sufficient in an uncertain global and economic climate. “And I’m living it.”