LAS VEGAS " Nevada's main electric utilities are extending financial incentives now offered to homeowners with solar power systems to customers installing wind turbines.
Nevada Power Co. of Las Vegas and affiliate Sierra Pacific Power Co. of Reno plan to begin a program Monday offering rebates of $2.50 per watt for wind turbines, based on the turbine's electricity production capacity. The maximum rebate per customer will be $25,000.
Officials said wind turbines can be used to generate electricity at homes, businesses, farms, schools and public buildings. Systems that generate more than 10,000 watts of power qualify for a $1.50 per watt rebate, but officials expect that most home wind turbines will be smaller and will qualify for the $2.50 rebate.
"I believe (wind turbines) will get pretty popular," said John Hargrove,
RenewableGenerations program manager for the two electric companies. "People want choice. They want the opportunity to be as green as they can."
The wind and solar rebates are expected to cost Nevada Power and Sierra Pacific Power up to $23.3 million. Hargrove said officials expect rebates to go quickly, perhaps in the first day.
Customers with solar panels and wind turbines can get credit feeding kilowatt hours of excess electricity back into the regional electric grid.
Questions remain about whether wind turbines will be permitted in urban locations, and about whether they are economically viable in southern Nevada. Officials say some homeowner associations may object to tall or noisy turbines.
Clark County spokesman Dan Kulin said county codes allow wind turbines in all zones, and the Las Vegas City Council in January 2007 approved small wind turbines in some residential zones.
Reno has adopted a wind turbine ordinance, and Washoe County is reviewing a draft of a wind turbine ordinance.
Chris Brooks, renewable energy director at Bombard Electric LLC, said height and space demands eliminate many urban sites. Turbines should be about 30 feet high and have no obstacles within a 300-foot radius, he said.
Mike Hess, chief executive officer of Mariah Power, a Reno-based wind turbine maker, said he hopes to get approval to put wind turbines on street lights.
He said his company offers a 1,200-watt wind turbine that costs $5,000 and works well with winds averaging 12 mph, and an $8,000 unit that works with average wind speeds of 8 mph.
Officials say rural areas and public buildings, including schools, may make better sites for wind turbines.
Nevada Power and Sierra Pacific Power are required by state law to continue their solar power rebate programs. The companies also are accepting applications for rebates on hydroelectric power projects on farms and ranches.
On the Net:
Nevada Power Co., Sierra Pacific Power Co. SolarGenerations program: http://www.solargenerations.com
Mariah Power: http://www.mariahpower.com
Bombard Electric LLC: http://www.bombardelectric.com/