Residential wind turbines nothing new in Prospect


This photo, taken shortly after the turbine was installed nearly 30 years ago, shows the windmill behind Scaviola's house in Prospect.

PROSPECT — Residential windmills are not a new phenomenon in Prospect. Town Council member Michael Scaviola has had one on his one-acre property for nearly three decades, though it hasn’t been in operation for the past 12 years.

Scaviola said his windmill created quite a buzz when he put it up three decades ago.

“Back then, nobody did anything with wind energy,” Scaviola said.

He got 25 percent reimbursement on the $25,000 cost of construction from the government, plus tax exemptions for the structure. When the windmill generated more power than Scaviola needed, it turned the energy meter backwards.

“It did generate a lot of electricity,” Scaviola said.

He said he quickly made back the money he spent on the turbine in energy savings over its 17-year operation.

Scaviola got permission to put up the turbine from the Planning and Zoning Commission.

“Of course zoning had absolutely no clue what the thing even looked like,” Scaviola said. The commissioners at the time expected a Dutch structure with cloth blades and tulips at the base a la Don Quixote, Scaviola said.

At 100 feet tall with 11-foot-long blades, sight of the structure was mostly blocked by trees, although it could be seen from Route 68, Scaviola said. Now, it’s barely visible above the tree line, and easy to miss.

The windmill behind Michael Scaviola's Prospect home no longer has its blades.

“Most people in town didn’t even know it was here,” Scaviola said. “Everybody pretty much liked it. … It generated more curiosity than anything else.”

Scaviola said he only got one anonymous complaint, at a time when a ball bearing was loose and making a lot of noise.

Not that it was normally quiet.

“The way I looked at it was, when it was noisy, I was making money,” Scaviola said.

He said the turbine made two noises. The first was the sound of the generator, a kind of high-pitched wine. The second was the sound of the wind hitting the blades; a whooshing sound Scaviola said was soothing when the wind was blowing steadily from one direction. When the wind changed direction, however, it could make a scary sound similar to a box fan turning.

“When it got that windy, you pretty much had all the windows closed anyways,” Scaviola said. He said the sound of the wind through the trees was louder than that of the blades.

Scaviola said, if he put new blades on his turbine now, he could get it up and running again, but he decided that was project for another time. He cut the blades down three years ago when they started to rot so they wouldn’t pose a safety problem.

Despite the success of his own windmill, Scaviola said Prospect needs regulations to govern where and how they are placed.

“To put them up without regulation, that’s insane,” he said.

Scaviola said he was not a proponent of the Wind Prospect project proposed by BNE. He feels the town needs to develop an ordinance that addresses all the issues, from noise, to aesthetics, to the depth of the foundation and safety concerns. Each turbine is different and must be considered separately, Scaviola said.

“I don’t think you can come up with a blanket statement on wind turbines all together,” Scaviola said.

With proper regulations, Scaviola said wind turbines can work in Prospect.

“I know they work, and I know they can be put in where they don’t bother anybody,” Scaviola said.