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Catch the Wind

Side Dishes: New Energy at The Spot


Published December 1, 2010 at 7:34 a.m.

The quirky former gas station that houses surfer-chic café The Spot on Shelburne Road in Burlington has a new appendage to fascinate passersby: a wind turbine. In October, Williston-based renewable-energy company Yellow Brick helped The Spot’s owner, Russ Scully, install a prototype made by Honeywell.

The café is the first place in Vermont to use this particular turbine, which is intended to power homes and small businesses. It won’t be released to the general public until later this month.

Scully will also have to wait until then to put the turbine into full operation. The device’s wind power is collected in a battery pack, called a Smart Box Inverter, also made by Honeywell. Scully won’t receive his until it’s been approved by Underwriters Laboratories, the product-safety-certification organization.

To harness the power and release the energy the turbine is already capturing, Scully has been experimenting with connecting it to temporary heaters. “Right now,” says the restaurant owner, “we’re really anxious to get this thing hooked up to our panel system so we can use the energy we’ve captured.” Once the Smart Box arrives, Scully intends to use it to power all the Spot’s outdoor lighting and a large drink cooler.

The surf-themed resto already took strides toward energy efficiency in September, when 36 photovoltaic panels began collecting power from the building’s roof. Scully estimates that solar power is responsible for 30 to 35 percent of the energy his restaurant uses. He says he’ll have to wait a year to determine how much more the turbine will provide.

Until then, the windmill has been a draw for customers, Scully says. “People stop me all the time to ask about ‘that thing on the roof.’” He adds, “I think, decoratively, it adds a lot to the roofline of the building. In my mind, it communicates something so much larger and broader than signage.”