Wind-power milestone in the making at a West Seattle home

Amy Beaudoin of West Seattle Natural Energy says it’s the future of renewable energy – a way to save power and money. Today, her company is installing West Seattle’s first grid-tied vertical access wind turbine at a Fauntleroy home. She says they’re excited this is finally happening – permits have been in the works for months. We’ll be back later for an update once the turbine’s up and running.

42 Replies to "Wind-power milestone in the making at a West Seattle home"

  • Dave October 22, 2009 (12:34 pm)

    So awesome! Please let us know the approx cost if the owner doesn’t mind.

  • Herman October 22, 2009 (12:52 pm)

    Looks like an eyesore in the making.

  • old timer October 22, 2009 (1:06 pm)

    What’s that saying about
    The longest journey begins with the first step?
    This is really cool news!
    Thanks to all.

  • mark October 22, 2009 (1:15 pm)

    I would love to know more about “permits have been in the works for months” and what hoops you had to jump thru to make it happen. I would think the city would have a speedy priority permitting process for something like this.

  • Andy October 22, 2009 (1:45 pm)

    It’s vertical “axis”, not “vertical access”. This means that the turbine spins around a vertical axis, rather than the more typical horizontal axis.

    Also, given Seattle’s very cheap electricity (the cheapest of any major urban area in the country) and West Seattle’s mediocre wind, this device is unlikely to “save … money”.

    Wind turbines generate some noise, so until we get some experience with them and how the neighbors respond, I wouldn’t want to make them too easy to permit.

  • zerodacus October 22, 2009 (1:47 pm)

    While I’m a proponent of wind and wave power, I’m not sure the neighbors are going to be thrilled. I wonder just how quiet these things are? I know my simple little wind vane makes a lot of noise just turning in the wind occasionally.

  • Brian October 22, 2009 (2:37 pm)

    beat me to it Andy :)

  • Mari October 22, 2009 (3:10 pm)

    Thanks for posting this. I’ve been curious about what they were working on there.

  • Alkiman October 22, 2009 (4:02 pm)

    I’m a huge proponent of wind and other renewable power. Even looked into getting a small windmill myself. However, as zerodacus noted, it makes little sense here, and can even be a negative – possible eyesore and noisy, especially during a quiet night.

  • KM October 22, 2009 (4:09 pm)

    I’m definitely excited to hear how they felt about the decision in a few months (and what the neighbors think). Please, please do a follow-up story in a little bit WSB. Who knows…maybe it IS super quiet, maybe it DOES save money…you have to install it to find out though and not just assume that it is an expensive, noisy, eye-sore. For the record, if MY neighbor installed this next to my house (and it didn’t make noise or effect my view in any way) then I would totally support it!

  • marty October 22, 2009 (4:30 pm)

    I’m all for alternative energy, but does a wind turbine really belong in a residential neighborhood? I wouldn’t be real happy if I looked out my window and saw one.

  • Andy October 22, 2009 (5:04 pm)

    To those who think this project might save money, I did a SWAG at that question

    Assume 2.5 kW
    Enough wind 5% of the time (depending on the model, they require about 8 mph). This is probably too high.
    Cost $5000 installed (this is probably way too low)
    Can borrow money at 5%.

    2.5 kW*0.05*24*365 = 1095
    SCL cost of electricty is about $0.04/ = $43


    So the amount you save on your bill is 200 less than the time value of the money.

    Personally, I give Seattle City Light $12 every bill to “Green Up” my energy.

  • JunctionMonkey October 22, 2009 (5:11 pm)

    Your intial cost estimate IS too low. There were exhibitors at this year’s West Seattle Street Fair, and I asked them specifically what the installed cost per kW was. The answer was $5000/kW. So your cost estimate is 2.5x too low.

    HOWEVER – YAY for them! Someone had to be first and the price SHOULD come down as more conversions get made. Hope so, anyway.

  • mark October 22, 2009 (6:00 pm)

    Hey Andy,

    Don’t buy one. duh.

  • Herman October 22, 2009 (8:08 pm)

    I think I’ll buy one and install it directly in front of my backyard neighbors view window. His view isn’t protected by zoning or law, and this permit sets precedent, so I’m sure that I can have one too. Ha! Sucks to be that guy!

  • Keith Hughes October 22, 2009 (8:25 pm)

    I’m sure this will be “one-sided” because I am the Owner of West Seattle Natural Energy, who is doing the install.

    Wind Resources are very site specific. It can vary by several miles per hour within 3 or 4 blocks. This 5 KW VAWT is within sight of the water – three blocks from the Fauntleroy Ferry Dock. All are welcome to drive by and take a look. We have talked with the neighbors, and all are very excited about this going in. No one in the neighborhood has complained.
    As to the noise issue, this turbine generates 32db at 24 MPH – that is less noise than a new car ideling in the driveway.
    Cost: This install cost about $6000 per KW. Some of that cost is because it is the first one, so engineering and permit fees were extremly high.
    A commercial company like ours has access to very good wind resource maps that have 10 years or more of averaged data. That data is what we use to determine if a Wind Turbine is right for the customer. If you do not live where the data shows that you have enough wind to make it a viable option, we won’t sell you one.
    Marty – before you say you wouldn’t want to see one out your window, you should look at one.
    8440 Fauntleroy Way SW.
    KM – it is 4 feet around and 28 feet tall, about 30% of the obstruction presented by the cedar trees next door – and the Wind Turbine won’t continue to get bigger.

  • mark October 23, 2009 (7:06 am)


    Thanks a ton for the info. If you get a chance, could you explain in a little more detail the permitting process? The permitting costs? Thanks. I know doing the right thing is NEVER the cheapest way to go and I doubt my house gets enough wind (feels like it some days) but I love the idea.


  • Eddie October 23, 2009 (9:34 am)

    Would love to have WSB post a video of the power meter spinning backwards (i.e. supplying power back to the grid beyond the homeowners usage).

    Not saying it isn’t possible, just curious to see it actually happen.

  • WSB October 23, 2009 (9:44 am)

    We will check with the WSNE folks. Haven’t been back for the promised followup yet, yesterday afternoon became insane with breaking news, so that’s a good question. Thanks, Eddie! And thanks to WSNE for finding this item and adding more information – TR

  • E October 23, 2009 (11:08 am)

    Cool test project. I really want to hear a followup story on how this plays out.

  • KBear October 23, 2009 (11:14 am)

    It makes their house look different, so it must be an eyesore.

  • Brenda October 23, 2009 (1:04 pm)

    I am a neighbor and I am Complaining! I live a few houses south and I think it is a huge eyesore. This is a lovely stretch of 1930’s Tudors and to install a 28 foot white and blue windmill in the front yard destroys the architectural continuity of this community. And to compare your windmill to the lovely trees is ridiculous. Did it ever occur to you or the Owner to install this in the backyard? Also, why didn’t you paint this a color that blends into the surrounding area better..not white and blue.
    I intend to complain to the City about this installation…are we seriously going to have these things in front yards all over the City!!??


  • rnl October 23, 2009 (2:40 pm)

    Drove by the House yesterday & boy is that thing ugly!

  • Natalie October 24, 2009 (12:05 pm)

    I’m looking forward to more information about this subject in my neighborhood..

    You can tell a true native of the PNW. We don’t criticize what our neighbors do. We have lives and we don’t need to criticize yours. I guess the property owners can decide for themselves if this was a good idea.

    As a side note I work for some of the wealthiest self made PNW entrepeneurs and it’s curious how they mind their own business. And some of them dry their laundry outside.

  • miws October 24, 2009 (1:32 pm)

    I checked it out on my walk back fron Lincoln Park a couple of hours ago.


    I have to say, I believe it detracts from the beauty of the classic, brick tudor home, (just about my favorite type of house), but the windmill itself is pretty darn cool looking, and do like the concept.


    If it had been me, and it would have been feasible, I probably would have put it in the back yard.


    Just wish there had been enough wind at the time I visited so I could see it spin! (Or, perhaps, it was locked from spinning, due to installtion not being finalized yet?)



  • VBD October 24, 2009 (2:47 pm)

    I live a few houses away from this. It IS ugly, but that’s not why I think it’s wrong for the area. It’s wrong for the area because it simply won’t work.

    Seattle is not a very good city for wind power in general. The average wind at SeaTac is less than 10 mph annually. This location, in the shelter of Fauntleroy Cove and surrounded by trees, does not get much wind at all. I’ve lived here a long time, and the wind does not blow down Fauntleroy Way the way it does out by Coleman pool, up north at Alki, or up on the bluff along Marine View Drive. You’ll often see boats mooring just north of the ferry dock for that reason. It’s always calmer here.

    Keith, you claim you won’t sell a windmill to someone unless the site has viable wind. You must have found a truly magic spot! I cannot see how this will generate any power at all except in strong stormy conditions. If you really wanted to prove to Seattle that wind power can be viable, you would have chosen a location that would succeed. It appears you just wanted to make a sale.

  • Person October 24, 2009 (10:30 pm)

    I saw this thing this morning. The first thought that popped into my head was…obnoxious.

    I really feel bad for the neighbors.

  • JV October 25, 2009 (10:46 pm)

    On the positive side, he blew (pun intended) his own money on this instead of having the politicians spend OUR money to test windmills that are insanely expensive and generate almost nothing.

  • Rob October 26, 2009 (10:17 am)

    If you check out the video’s of these things spinning it is more artistic that irritating. It reminds me of the wind sculptures up on San Juan Island. I can’t imagine getting irritated by looking at that.

  • WSB October 26, 2009 (10:21 am)

    It actually does remind us of some of the sculptures we’ve seen in a variety of public places – like the Bellevue Galleria. Or a representation of DNA I seem to recall seeing at Disney World. Haven’t gotten a good photo yet – hoping for a breezy but not rainy day to see it in action.

  • JV October 27, 2009 (3:07 pm)

    It’s been up for a week, and I have not seen it budge yet. Hmmm. Maybe they should move it to a place with wind!

  • VBD October 30, 2009 (5:32 pm)

    There’s lots of wind today!!! It’s mov….
    Oh wait, it stopped.

  • Dan October 30, 2009 (6:37 pm)

    I have driven by it a few times now and just keep on shacking head. Today was the first time I saw it move. This thing is way to ugly for front yard residential neighborhoods.

  • JV November 3, 2009 (11:49 am)

    Week 2 and I have still not seen it move, and I drive past it at least twice a day. I’ve seen the branches of the trees moving, and the flags flying in the wind…but the big eye-sore just sits there.

    I wonder if that thing has a return policy.

  • JV November 10, 2009 (5:24 pm)

    Week 3 and it still hasn’t budged. And it has been very windy this week.

    The house is totally dark…this is a glimpse of what to expect when people buy into faulty technology based on Al Gore’s marketing skills instead of actual solutions that work.

  • JV November 13, 2009 (9:54 am)

    Friday on Week 3; the wind is blowing hard, white caps out on the Puget Sound, and today I have seen the West Seattle Eyesore/Windmill move! Pretty slowly, and not enough to produce any measurable energy but it IS moving! I have to be fair here! It’s creating the same amount of energy as my 2-year-old on her tricycle.

    This is a tremendous occasion! Break out your digital clock radio, we have power!

  • looking for logic November 19, 2009 (4:16 pm)

    I think it’s kinda cool looking.

  • looking for logic November 19, 2009 (4:19 pm)

    Troglodytes should move to a third world country where they can control everyone’s life, liberty and the pursuit of science.

  • JV November 22, 2009 (3:49 pm)

    Week 4: There have been high wind advisories every day this week, tons of wind, but very little movement in the tall tower of scrap metal.

    If it doesn’t move when there are high wind warnings, is it ever going to produce electricity? Doesn’t seem logical.

    I can’t wait for WSB’s follow up story on this thing, along with a cost analysis!

  • WSB November 22, 2009 (4:33 pm)

    Are you documenting it? Maybe with video? You may get to it before we do.

  • KG November 23, 2009 (3:50 pm)

    My guess is the data collected for wind in the area was at the ferry terminal itself. Actual data should be collected for approximately 1 full year at the location of the install. Where this house is there is a large cliff and lots of trees to break the wind. I personally have a weather station (Which can be bought at Costco for $80. Or more expensive ones are available online) at my house to determine if such a turbine is worth the investment. As of right now, not looking very good. Mostly when I just paid my 2 month SPU electric bill of $57.

  • VBD December 3, 2009 (3:33 pm)

    Wow, this is still here…. I just took a look to see who has commented….

    WSB, a video is sort of useless, because it hardly ever moves. The still pictures are just fine. Even in on the windiest days a few weeks ago, it just barely made it around for more than a couple rotations.

    It should be noted that according to Helix, the manufacturer, it generates it’s rated power at 200 rpm. If this thing has made it up to 50 rpm, I would be amazed. And since the output of power to rpm is exponential, it would only generate a few dozen watts at 50 rpm, if at all.

    I really hope no tax money (including rebates) were used for this. I HATE that swindlers like West Seattle Natural Energy will take money from us for this stuff. The incentive program is supposed to be used for alternative energy programs that will actually work.

    Putting that wind turbine there is like putting solar panels in a basement.

    I hope the customer is happy with her $30,000 piece of ugly yard art.

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