Home turbines may avert bird death problem

Robin Wilson, who founded San Francisco based Whirligig Inc. to sell and install turbines, said she was pleased when Mayor Gavin Newsom took a tangible step to encourage the development of wind power in San Francisco by asking city departments to expedite permitting for turbines.

“I had about 30 names of people who definitely wanted them,” she said. “I’ve contacted all of them and everybody’s excited.”

The turbines sold by Wilson’s company sell for between $17,000 and $20,000, but a state rebate will slash the price by one-fourth or more, she said.

In windy conditions, one of the company’s 33- to 60-foot high windmills, which resemble scaled-down versions of the steel structures cemented into the Altamont Pass, could power a modest home, product specifications suggest.

The early-generation Altamont Pass turbines have earned ire and lawsuits from bird-lovers for their raptor-killing side effects, but Wilson said she hasn’t found any dead birds in the 11 months that she has used her company’s product at her Mission home. The Altamont Pass is in a migration route and the fast-spinning blades are invisible to birds, while Wilson said her products are easier to see.

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