COUNTY CONSIDERING WINDMILL REQUEST AGUA DULCE MAN WANTS TO GENERATE OWN POWER.
AGUA DULCE - When Bob Skerstonas decided to beat the energy crisis and erect a windmill on his Agua Dulce spread, he raised a few eyebrows.
It was the first time Los Angeles County planners had ever considered a privately operated windmill. In fact, California has no standards for wind-powered generators in residences.
``This is a new issue for us - private wind-generators,'' said John Hartman, supervising regional planner for the county.
But Hartman said a policy is being formalized to address private-use wind generators, at the urging of Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich.
Antonovich had several requests from the north county - particularly the windy desert regions of Agua Dulce and Acton - where those with large lots want to implement an alternative energy source.
``We recognize there's an energy shortage, and where it's appropriate, we wouldn't object to putting up wind generators for private use,'' Hartman said. ``It's safe to say we'd encourage use if it's not a visual nuisance.''
Until now, planners have only received requests from people who wanted to install windmills for agricultural businesses. In those cases, the county issued conditional use permits for windmills as accessories to the business to help offset its energy demands.
On Tuesday, Antonovich will introduce a motion directing planners to investigate the wind turbine permit process and report back to the board within 14 days with a series of options on how to reduce the time and cost of constructing residential, noncommercial wind turbines.
Faced with rising energy costs, Skerstonas decided to put to work the gusty winds that flow through Agua Dulce at least five to seven hours a day.
``It's an economical system to put in overall,'' said Skerstonas, who has calculated that based on current prices, he will see a return on his investment in four years.
He has already pulled a permit to put up a 30-foot-tall wind generator - a shorter version of the large wind generators along Interstate 10 in Riverside County - on his nearly seven-acre lot. The single unit would generate 500 kilowatt-hours, or one-third of his monthly electricity needs. The wind generator would cost $8,000, and he would receive $4,000 from a state rebate program.
His electricity bills from Southern California Edison run about $200 a month - mainly because he has a water well with two pumps - and go up to $300 in the summer when he runs the two air-conditioners in his house.
For a 3,800-square-foot house, his electricity bills are relatively low because energy efficiency was a priority when he built his home in 1990.
Skerstonas' log house is equipped with solar panels and Thermopane E glass to keep out the solar heat and keep in the warmth. He even built his house due north-south so during winter months he gets the maximum amount of ambient heat. The roof has four inches of plastic foam insulation under the wood, and the logs provide eight inches of insulation to the house - giving his home an impressive ``R-factor'' of 78, which measures how much heat and cold is contained inside the house.
``Knowing that the cost of energy would increase, I thought it was a great investment,'' said Skerstonas, about the additional $60,000 he spent on making his house more energy-efficient.
Skerstonas isn't the only one who's experienced delays when awaiting county approval for his own windmill. A number of other residents have complained that the county's permit restrictions, fees and processing time lines delayed the process of installing their windmills.
In formulating their recommendation to the Board of Supervisors for private windmill and generator use, Hartman explained that the Planning Department will consider minimum land size requirements and find ways to ensure that the consensus of adjacent property owners is obtained, preventing a visual nuisance.
Skerstonas said his neighbors are interested in the idea, and are waiting to see the results of his experience.
``People just don't realize that doing little things will make such a big difference in conserving energy,'' he said.
(1 -- color) Bob Skerstonas hopes to install a windmill on his property in Agua Dulce. The windmill, which would power a generator.
(2) This is the type of windmill Bob Skerstonas hopes to install on his Agua Dulce property.
David R. Crane/Staff Photographer