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'Small wind' power plants are blowing strong

Climate concerns, rising utility costs, better technology, and new laws are making home units more attractive.

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Power Plant: Robert Loebelenz of Dover, Mass., had to overcome some neighbors' resistance to his wind turbine. It provides most of his power. He has solar panels, too.

Joanne Ciccarello – Staff

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On a recent sunny afternoon Bob Loebelenz pauses to gaze 72 feet into the air at the spinning blades of his wind turbine, a small "clean, free electricity" smile creasing the corners of his mouth.

While giant wind turbines that supply power to utilities sprout along ridgelines across the United States, far smaller residential wind generators, like the one Mr. Loebelenz erected in 2003 to power his suburban Boston home, are still unusual in densely populated places.

That may be changing. Across the country signs are growing that "small wind" (a category that includes wind generators geared to supply a single home) is catching on in suburban and even urban settings.

"My phone has been ringing off the hook," says Mark Durrenberger, president and founder of New England Breeze, a Hudson, Mass., wind and solar power installer.

Improved generator technology, more financial incentives, rising electric rates, and energy-security concerns have opened the way for small-wind power to bloom in unlikely places.

"Small wind really seems to be taking off for residential, small business, and farm use," says Trudy Forsyth, leader of the distributed wind program at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo.

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