LAKE WALES, Fla. (FOX 13) - Last year, a Lake Wales couple planned to install a wind turbine on their property. It was to be the first ever in Polk County.
Now they've earned a new title for their home: Most energy-efficient renovation in North America. They're harnessing the power of the wind and sun to not only produce electricity but to also send it back to the grid.
In a place called the sunshine state, solar panels are an obvious way to cut costs. But there's another power-generating resource that Floridians often breeze past.
Allison Sakara recalls being told, "Oh, there's not enough wind in Florida to make it worth your while."
But she and her husband, Maurice Ramirez can attest - there's plenty of wind to go around.
In March, they installed Polk County's first wind turbine on their Lake Wales property. It was such uncharted territory, they helped create a new ordinance with conditions on things like setback, height, and noise.
"They run to these two inverter boxes which converts it to regular line power," Ramirez said, explaining how the wind turbine works. "We're running 43 decibels right now. That's very quiet. It's less than the owls. It's less than the crickets. It's less than the frogs."
With just an hour of the blades spinning, "We have been able to generate enough power to run our house for the next six hours," Sakara said.
Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) calculates energy performance of homes in North America using the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index. A standard new home scores 100. Sakara and Ramirez scored -63.
Between their wind turbine, 81 solar panels, and an energy efficient air conditioning system, they earned the titles of most energy-efficient renovation ever rated in North America and 4th most energy-efficient home, renovation, or new construction out of over 2 million homes rated since the program began.
They're not completely off the grid. They still pay a monthly bill.
"$25. And all of that is line fees, which are required," Ramirez said. "The turbine is generating electricity which we put back out to the grid and take back when we need it at night or when the wind is not blowing."
It wasn't cheap. Installation, sound adjustment, and ordinance work cost $147,000. But with the wind turbine performing far better than expected, they hope to pay it off in 12-14 years.
"We've generated enough power since March, that not only did we make up any deficits from the first of the year, but we are a full month ahead for power," Ramirez said.
What do they do with a 90-foot wind turbine in the event of a hurricane? Though it is designed to withstand winds up to 140 miles per hour, if winds get above 75, they'll lower it using a hydraulic system, remove the blades, and store them safely in a building.
"It just shows you, if I do it on my little piece of property here, I now challenge you, what can you do on your little piece of property?" Sakara said. "What can you use, what can you harness that's around you that is going to reduce your carbon footprint?"