Project helps energize home

STILLWATER, OKLAHOMA - Stillwater High School senior Michael Solomon is doing his part to save money for his family.

At the same time, he's helping the environment, and he has dreams of someday helping other people do the same thing.

Solomon has built two wind generators and four solar panels to provide energy for his family's home in southwest Stillwater. All together, the system can supply about one kilowatt of power, he said.

"It's completely renewable," he added. "The fuel is the wind and the sun."

His system supplies about half the power for the Solomons' home, both he and his mother said.

"My husband and I were traveling to California and called back and (Michael) said, 'I took the house off the grid,'" Brenda Solomon said, explaining that her son was supplying all the home's power. "I didn't think at the time it was a really big deal."

That still happens sometimes, Solomon said, mostly in the spring and fall when the area has more wind and sun. Some days, he said, the house's electric meter runs backward.

"If it produces more than what the house uses at that point, it turns the meter backward," he said. The extra power goes into the grid for others to use the power.

Brenda Solomon estimated that their electric bills are between $70 and $100 a month, although she said her son also conducted an energy audit on the home and sealed up cracks and they keep the temperature between 78 and 80 degrees.

Solomon has been interested in wind power for a long time, his mother said, ever since seeing a large wind farm north of Palm Springs, Calif., where the family has a home. Several years ago, he became what his mother called "obsessed," so she started calling Stillwater High School and Oklahoma State University to see if someone could help.

"I had an engineering professor come out," she said. "He said, 'I can help him do a science project, but he already knows what to do.'"

Solomon said he's built seven wind generators; three were prototypes, and he sold two on eBay. Currently, he uses a 500-watt generator and a 200-watt generator, along with four solar panels, a 170-watt panel and three 20-watt panels.

He built all of them himself with parts salvaged from other things. For example, the 500-watt generator's alternator, he said, is a car alternator that he modified to use for the generator.

He even has a plan to create a wind farm for Oklahoma State University or Stillwater and has sent his idea to Boone Pickens. Solomon would like to see the university or the city build a wind farm on a large, mostly barren hill at the junction of state Highway 51 and I-35.

"I believe it would be a prime spot to put a wind generator to help power OSU or Stillwater," he said.

He has written to Pickens, he added, but would like to discuss his ideas in person.

Solomon is taking college classes now while he's still in high school, his mother said, and he plans to attend Oklahoma State next year. After that, he'd like to own his own wind farm and expand his company to make and sell wind generators.

"I want to help people eliminate their electrical bills and help the environment at the same time," he said.

His mother explained, "that's his passion: to make a difference."


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