The Hopi people have a legend about the wind. It is said that their tribe was troubled by the constant gusts that blew away their seeds and crops, and that they sent two little war gods to stop the wind god Yaponcha from all of his huffing and puffing. With the wind gone, the heat became unbearable. Recognizing the error of their ways, the Hopis sent the war gods back to make peace with Yaponcha. Since that time the winds have blown just right—not too hard, not too soft—and the Hopis are friends with the wind.
In October 2008, Keith and Jessica Abrams of Coxsackie made good friends with the winds as well, honoring the great blustering force that tracks across the Great Lakes toward the East Coast. They opened their business Green in Greene, which specializes in the distribution and installation of full-service, residential wind turbines.
The couple’s brainstorming began back on Earth Day of last year. As the parents of a six-year-old son, they wanted to take part in preserving the environment for future generations. They wanted to provide a source of clean, sustainable energy to the people of Greene County and beyond, and they sought to provide jobs to members of their community. Exploration of solar power left them less than bright on its prospects as an energy source. Relatively new technology meant that harvesting the sun’s rays could only provide about 18 percent mass-produced efficiency. The Abrams also had doubts about solar power’s reliability in a less sunny clime. They turned toward their ongoing research of an energy type that was 95 percent efficient, and better suited to the capricious and sometimes volatile weather conditions of the Northeast, a power that would be supported by the altitude of the Catskill Mountains.
“The answer was blowing in the wind,” says Jessica.
Keith had worked as a contractor for many years. He had been involved in historical restorations, with a focus on mostly larger, commercial projects, never losing his belief in the value of recycling. Waste costs on projects were commonly reduced by his reuse of scores of materials: residual lumber, plumbing supplies, tiles, drywall, even brick. Although Jessica was also involved in that business, as a bookkeeper and manager of human resources, Green in Greene is different. The small-scale wind harvesting business is an entity they have created together. It’s their baby.
Jessica spends time on marketing, getting the word out about the importance of finding alternative energy sources in this age of global crisis and increasing electricity and fuel prices. She has created a website for Green in Greene full of information on the spread of diseases caused by climate change, the benefit of herbs and chemical-free cleaning; she is proud of the links forged with organizations such as Green Jobs Now and Al Gore’s We Can Solve It. The Green in Greene team is, in fact, a regional captain for Gore’s initiative.
Keith was trained in the installation of wind turbines at Southwest Wind Power in Flagstaff, Arizona. The Abramses investigated several operations before they settled on Southwest Wind. They enjoyed the company’s practicality and business sense, its understanding of turbine engineering, its dedication to testing its products in even the most extreme climates, and its lengthy history of success. For Green in Greene, Keith and Jessica chose to purchase Southwest Wind’s Skystream 3.7 model, which had been working flawlessly in the field for seven years.
The number “3.7” refers to the diameter of the blades in meters. Standing 33 to 50 feet tall, the Skystream 3.7 units look like colossal pinwheels. The center of the wheel is called the nacelle. Three six-foot-long blades exten from the nacelle, creating a 12-foot diameter. Their special curvature creates twice the amount of lift as straight blades might, and they face passively downwind. In this manner, the equipment is barely strained, and, barring any unseen catastrophe, maintenance is not required for 20 years after installation. Given that they are built to withstand 185-mile-per-hour winds, the roof of a house might cave in before these units topple. Yet they are gentle giants. Their soft hum alerts birds and bats to change their flight path, protecting wildlife. Otherwise, operation is extremely quiet, and the blades will do their work even in winds as tranquil as eight miles per hour.
Keith explains how they function: “The wind turns the blades, and the generator converts the kinetic energy of the wind from DC power to AC power in the nacelle. When the power comes down the pole from the nacelle, it’s grid compatible and can be connected to any electrical system. Electricity is like water. It takes the path of least resistance. The home will take from the generated power first before it takes it from the grid. The greater the wind speed, the more power is generated, and the less that home needs to take.”