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Chicago Residential Wind Turbine (Illinois, USA)

Credits: ©July Lisa Black/Chicago Tribune

Doug Snower's neighbors in Highland Park stared hard when the silver and blue wind turbine first appeared on his garage roof. While it could pass for a kinetic sculpture, the shiny, spinning device he installed a few weeks ago has generated low-voltage electricity and a steady hum of conversation. Unlike the monstrous bladed commercial turbines that have drawn controversy over their noise and environmental impact, Snower's gadget is a quiet and modest 600-watt affair, working alongside a solar panel to supply a bank of four batteries.


Chicago Residential Wind Turbine

This small rooftop wind turbine on a Chicago resdience saves on monthly utility bills. ©July Andrew Nelles/Chicago Tribune

He uses it to power his electric lawn mower, the family's laptops, phones, cameras and a small fridge. Snower figures he saves about $10 to $15 monthly on electricity bills and is eligible for a 30 percent rebate on federal income taxes. But he intended the $5,000 investment as more of an educational tool for his teen daughters -- as well as for curious passersby. "At least six neighbors have come to look," said Snower, an architectural photographer who plans to serve as a Midwest distributor for the turbine's Chinese supplier. He and his wife, Shari, added on to their house two years ago with the greenest of intentions. They are still experimenting with a partial grass roof to conserve water, a wood-burning masonry fireplace for heating and a natural air ventilation system. About a week after Snower installed his turbine, ComEd workers replaced a transformer across the street. "I've got them running scared," he said with a megawatt smile.