Kansas City firm sticks neck out on wind, sun energy

A reliable sign that the United States can afford to take global warming seriously showed up in Overland Park this fall. A private business has installed a state-of-the-art wind turbine near the intersection of I-435 and Roe and will soon put up 24-electricity generating panels on its building. The combination of wind and sun energy is calculated to produce two-thirds of the power that the A. L. Huber construction company will use in its 14,000 square-foot building.
Huber will spend an estimated $250,000 on its renewable energy project, which will include a center which will show anyone interested how their turbine and solar panels work.
Huber estimates that the project will take 20 years to pay for itself in lower utility costs. The long pay-off period makes wind and sun hard sells to commercial clients. On the other hand, there is nothing out of the ordinary about a 20-year mortgage and it is widely expected that the cost of wind turbines and commercial solar panels will drop sharply as they become more widely used.
Huber’s decision to make such a significant investment in renewables is money-where-our-mouth-is testimony from a big player in the industry. The company is known widely as a builder of churches, office buildings and retail shopping centers.
The turbine it chose is of a new design engineered to be used where wind speeds are often low — as is the case in Kansas City. It will operate with winds as low as six miles an hour and is the first to be installed in North America. The blades look like the paddle wheels on a Mississippi River steam cruiser. The Kansas City turbine is mounted atop a steel pole 83 feet high and has been confused with modern metal sculpture such as adorns the approaches to the Kansas City International Air Terminals and elsewhere in the city.
The slow operating speed of the blades means fewer birds will die and less ice will be flung about in freezing rains.
But the unusual wind turbine design is not the big story in Huber’s decision. They are proving that going green can be a viable business decision. Once that message is confirmed — and reinforced by reasonable carbon taxes and federal incentives — emissions of carbon dioxide in the U.S. will take a nose dive.
If it happens soon enough, mankind has at least an even chance to slow the melting of the arctic ice caps and the rise of the world’s ocean levels. More far-seers like A.L. Huber will give that progression a needed push.

— Emerson Lynn, jr.

N.B. The wind turbine was manufactured in South Korea. One of the goals of our nation should be to regain the lead in the development and manufacture of high tech renewable energy equipment. The Huber turbine was, in fact, designed by the AES Wind Co. of San Francisco, which is in partnership with the South Korean manufacturer. It is no surprise that the engineering came from the U.S. Step two is to create the manufacturing jobs here as well.