Monday, May 18, 2009

THE WIND AT THEIR BACKS

Posted By on Mon, May 18, 2009 at 12:09 PM

Four generations and 80 years ago, Myron Kaplan’s grandmother founded Pearl Road Auto Parts in a grimy little box-trailer in the middle of a small pile of dead cars. It was likely the first good example of a recycling business in town.

add3/1242663463-kaplan.jpgNow sitting on a veritable auto cemetery along I-480 at Pearl Road in Cleveland, Myron’s middle-aged son Jon (pictured) is setting about revolutionizing the family spread. On Friday morning, the family started digging a hole for the foundation to a 140-foot tower that will be topped by a giant fan, 65 feet in diameter.

“If I want this all to be here for my kids,” says Jon, “I have to do things right.”

And due to the infusion of new state grant funds for green energy incubation — not to mention the promise of more tax incentives and federal stimulus support on the way — the Kaplans feel like they just found a pile of money with instructions on exactly how to negate their carbon footprint … at a savings. Instead of an electric bill of $2,000 a month — as well as the gas bill to power heaters in the winter — the Kaplans will pay $1,300 a month on a mortgage for the wind turbine. (A state grant covered more than two-thirds the cost.)

“It’s a great investment incentive,” says Jon. “I was told that I can apply for even more money too, but I feel kind of guilty, you know?”

“God bless,” was how Myron summed up his feelings about the government support.

And you can’t beat the publicity. Just try not to notice the environmental revolution if you ever have to take I-480 somewhere now. And Jon will put an LCD screen in the lobby, with feeds from two cameras inside the tower and monitoring data, to show off the savings and efficiency of their no-brainer investment.

“I’m going to help people put them up,” says Jon about another incentive. “I’ve got the knowledge. I’m putting one up here on my own property. If there’s enough wind and the land is right and you do it legally, you can put one of these just about anywhere.”

It’s happening all right. Even though the only familiar example of Cleveland bending to the turbined winds of change is that single fan at the Great Lakes Science Center, CSU just installed one earlier this week on top of its Plant Services building.

There are naysayers out there, sure. Smart ones. Like blogger Bill Callahan, who took a ramble through the finally forthcoming feasibility study by the county task force — chaired by county prosecutor Bill Mason (?) — studying the efficacy of building a small wind farm in Lake Erie with federal stimulus money. Callahan’s take: How “feasible” is this “iconic” farm, when it’ll cost two to three times more just to put it in the water? And the wind in these parts ain't as strong as you might think.

But on a small scale? Who knows? Build them where they’re cheapest, get the most bang for our energy dollars. The Kaplans did. Who’s up next? — Dan Harkins

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