No ‘Happy Days’ for one green dealer

Posted on Written by Jack Atzinger

Three years ago John Schroeder had high hopes that a new wind turbine would sharply reduce Happy Days Boating’s reliance on FirstEnergy Corp. for electric power. Today, Schroeder’s turbine is broken, the company that made it is no longer in business, and he has acquired a dim view of the economics of government-assisted projects that aim to save businesses money through the use of clean and green power.

“Our turbine is not working at the moment, but when it was producing, on a good month, it saved us approximately $500,” says Schroeder, vice president of the family-owned powerboat dealership in Port Clinton, Ohio.

Wind is considered Ohio’s top source of renewable energy. Happy Days Boating is a little more than a mile from Lake Erie’s Sandusky Bay, and Schroeder says the average wind speed at the dealership is 12 mph. The turbine peaks at 50 kW an hour.

Happy Days (www.happydaysboating.com), which sells Rinker, SportCraft, Tidewater, Seaswirl and Parker boats, has six buildings, including a heated showroom, and its electricity costs can reach $2,600 a month. Schroeder initially thought the turbine could save the dealership an average of $1,900 a month, but that figure proved to be too optimistic. When it quit working in November, the turbine was only reducing the dealership’s electricity costs by about 20 percent a month.

Schroeder says that when the wind is blowing less than 9 mph the turbine uses about 400 watts of energy an hour. When the wind is blowing at 9 to 12 mph, he says, the turbine produces only 4 to 5 kW of energy an hour.

Happy Days bought the turbine from Engineered Process Systems, an authorized reseller and wind turbine installation specialist based in Huron, Ohio. The turbine consists of a 100-foot tower supporting three 25-foot blades. It was made by Canada-based Entegrity Wind. Schroeder says Entegrity is not now in business, but he has gotten in touch with a repairman who used to work for the company. He was to travel to Ohio in mid-January to repair the turbine’s tip brakes — flaps on the blades that are designed to slow them down safely.

A state grant covered half of the $258,000 cost of the turbine, and Schroeder says the dealership also received $70,000 in federal tax credits. That left Happy Days with $59,000 to recoup, but Schroeder says the business has recovered only about a third of it. At that rate it would take about 10 years for the dealership to recover its costs.

“Without the government grants and tax credits, this would not make economic sense for anyone to do,” Schroeder says. “Without these programs it would take 500 months to pay it off, not taking into account if you took a loan out on the machine or the maintenance required on a yearly basis.

“Don’t get me wrong,” he adds. “I really think something needs to be done to clean up our environment, but I do believe that there needs to be some financial responsibility on our government to make sure that these projects make sense.”

This article originally appeared in the February 2012 issue.

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