Contacts: Dan McLean, 612-297-1607 Colleen Coyne, 651-297-7363 Toll-free: 1-800-657-3864 Saint Paul, Minn. -- When you visit the Minnesota State Fair this summer, look up. In addition to the soaring, 123-foot-tall, commercial wind turbine blade planted at the entrance of the Minnesota State Fair and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Eco Experience, fairgoers can also get a look at a more humble, residential-variety of wind turbine recently acquired by Jerry Lilyerd of Mora. Humble, yes, but still tall. For practical purposes, Lilyerd will install only the 20-foot topmost portion of his new 200-foot turbine (eventually destined to power his home). But although fairgoers will see the blades spinning, the turbine will not be generating power for the Eco Experience this year. Hopefully that's in the plans for 2007. Off the grid pricey, but worth it.
Lilyerd's interest in wind energy began in the early 1980s when he erected a telescoping, 80-foot-tall turbine on his small residential lot near the intersection of Minnehaha and Lexington Avenues in St. Paul. The turbine supplemented the output of tracking solar panels that adjust every 15 minutes to follow the sun. "I went totally off the [power] grid for seven years in the heart of St. Paul," he said. He predicts that alternative energy sources will become more mainstream as the price of conventional sources goes up and the cost of solar and wind systems drop.
For example, a typical home-sized wind turbine customer could expect to pay about $25,000 for the turbine, the tower, electrical components and labor. Those interested in installing a solar panel system tied into the existing electrical grid are likely to pay $10-$12 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of power generated. Of course after these initial investments, the electricity produced is gratis, compliments of Mother Nature.
Also, if homeowners want to be completely free of the grid, they'll need both the panels and the turbine. That's because solar panels work just fine here during three seasons. But when the winter sun just breaks the horizon, solar panels - even tracking panels - can't generate enough electricity to power a home.
So what motivates the purchase of the expensive equipment? Lilyerd, who owns a company that sells solar- and wind-power equipment, said some customers want to make a political statement or say they don't want to use energy from polluting technologies. "This is something they want to do because it feels good," he said. Others simply want to power that remote cabin, home or business.
Lilyerd and his family enjoy the benefits of a home that takes only what it gets from the wind and sun. Their home sits in a clearing at the end a of driveway two-and-a-half miles from the nearest dirt road.
They're off the grid, again.
About the Eco Experience at the Minnesota State Fair
A first of its kind, the Eco Experience is an indoor green space with lush rain gardens, an eco home, live entertainment, and cutting-edge displays on renewable energy, new fuels and vehicles, and organic farming. Perfect for do-it-yourselfers, techies, gardeners and nature-lovers, the space features a children's area with fun for kids of all ages. The Eco Experience is presented by the Minnesota State Fair and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, helping Minnesotans protect the environment since 1967. Bring your family, bring a friend - get in on the Eco Experience!
The Eco Experience is located in the Progress Center building at the corner of Cosgrove Street and Randall Avenue on the State Fairgrounds. The Minnesota State Fair runs Thursday, Aug. 24 through Labor Day, Sept. 4, 2006. Park and ride information is available online at http://www.mnstatefair.org.
Visit http://www.EcoExperience.org for more information.