Sheep Dog Hollow's green renovation is almost finished

The green renovation of Sheep Dog Hollow, a 100-year-old farmhouse, is almost finished. But wind power is still under consideration.

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    Dale King, contractor and former owner of Sheep Dog Hollow, puts the finishing touches on the outside trim. He's standing on scaffolding two stories high.
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This is going to be one of my last blog posts in the Monitor about Sheep Dog Hollow, our green renovation adventure. The greening aspects of the project are almost all complete, from the geothermal heat system to the low-E windows to the on-demand water heaters.

So we’re looking to future green options – and the one that’s currently caught my attention is wind. In my previous two posts, I discussed how to determine whether wind would be a viable option for you and then gave a thumbnail sketch of the initial challenges – which include getting town approval to put up a big tower on your property to measure the air speed overhead.

“To really know for sure where you’re at, you need to put up your own anemometer and do a little bit of a wind study of your own,” says Bruce Lichenwalter of Northeast Alternative Energy.

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An anemometer is a little mechanism that measures and can record wind speeds. Many states – most of which are out West, although others include Vermont and Virginia – have anemometer loan programs that homeowners can take advantage of.

The Department of Energy’s Wind Powering America site has a map that shows which states have them. Their mission, like the one in Virginia at James Madison University is "designed to empower landowners by generating their interest in wind energy through the borrowing of meteorological towers and encouraging wind development.”

Connecticut, where Sheep Dog Hollow is located, alas, doesn’t have such a program, but it’s easy to buy an anemometer – they can cost as little as $35. The big expense comes from the tower, which should be the recommended 30 feet above the tree line.That could cost from a few thousand dollars to as much as $25,000 or $30,000.

Since I haven't undertaken this challenge yet, I’d recommend other sites, such as otherpower.com, which touts itself as the “cutting edge of low technology.” It has a great page that has far more detailed information about towers and how to build them. It’s also a great primer on getting started in wind.

But if your interest is in just learning and watching other people take the plunge into wind, the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund has just announced that it will be providing regular, Web-based updates on the four small wind-turbine demonstration projects that it has set up around the state:

“The projects, located at Coventry High School, Lyman Memorial High School in Lebanon, Meriden YMCA Mountain Day Mist Camp and New Haven Visitor Information Center, are designed to provide CCEF with valuable information about the operation of wind turbines in Connecticut. Because the projects are set in diverse locations – including coastal, near-costal and inland/mountain – and incorporate diverse wind turbine systems, their performance will help clarify which types of installations CCEF should support in the future.”

The CCEF website has detailed information about each project, including site characteristics as well as what kind of equipment is used. Eventually, once the small turbines start operating, the website will provide live data “including wind speed, direction and frequency information, and turbine power output will be available, as will other system monitoring information.”

It should be a great way for anyone interested in pursuing wind, at least vicariously at first, to get a sense of what works best and where.

For now, I believe that’s what I’ll be doing. That’s because we’re running out of money at Sheep Dog Hollow. Our focus right now is on finishing up things like Sheetrock, the water well, and the septic system.

Then there’s the painting to do and electrical fixtures to put in.

But the biggest challenge, bar none, is finding more money to put in all of the wonderful finishing touches – such as those elegant, but costly 200-year-old wide- board floors we’ve been eyeing. All we have to do is sell our current house…. Good thing the real estate market is picking up!

Next: the final goodbye blog.

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Alexandra Marks blogs twice a week about her green and budget-friendly restoration of a 1902 farmhouse in Connecticut. Click here to find all her blog posts and articles.

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