WIND POWER

Pearl Road Harnesses Mother Nature For Profit



Jon Kaplan's idea to use renewable energy source to power his Cleveland business defined the city's rules on wind turbines.

PHOTO: MICHAELANGELO'S PHOTOGRAPHY

Jon Kaplan made Cleveland, Ohio history. His family business, Pearl Road Auto Wrecking & Salvage, Inc. (PearlRoadAutoParts.com), is the first business in the city with a wind turbine.

"I studied wind energy; reading books and magazines for the longest time," stated Kaplan, vice president of Pearl Road Auto Wrecking & Salvage. "I came to the point where I wanted to put my own turbine up."

Kaplan knew he had the wind for it. He put an anemometer on the facility's roof to test it. Then he looked for the right turbine. He found a remanufactured 120-kilowatt model that fit the bill.

"It's remanufactured like it's brand new," explained Kaplan. "There's not a lot of wear and tear on it in the first place, since it's just being pushed by the wind. But all of the worn parts have been replaced and should be good for 20 years or more."

Because the city of Cleveland had never had a wind turbine before, Kaplan used California law specifications for his turbine.

"The actual (Cleveland) legislation for wind turbines was written for this project," acknowledged Dave Mallie, vice president of sales, marketing and community outreach for Pearl Road Auto Wrecking & Salvage and the newly formed PearlWind, LLC (PearlWind.com). "This was the first wind turbine to be tied into the electrical grid."

It was about a four-month process to put up the turbine. The actual installation took just about a day. The project was completed in September 2009.

Government incentives paid for about 72 percent of the project, according to Kaplan, who had to front the money. He was inspired to help other businesses do the same. He started a sister company, PearlWind, and negotiated with his bank to allow clients to erect turbines without some of the upfront costs.

After just a few months in operation, PearlWind is helping national clients from a fish farm to a steel foundry and many auto recyclers. The staff includes Kaplan, Mallie, Emily Kortiz on secondary funding and grant-collection, and Michael Short who handles RECs (renewable energy credits). There are also employees who maintain the turbine, which is minimal. It includes changing the oil and checking the belts.

The turbine will contribute toward Pearl Road Auto Wrecking & Salvage's estimated $2,000 monthly electric bill. Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co. buys any surplus electricity. Kaplan projects the $375,000 project will pay for itself within four to eight years.

"The value of the turbine isn't just in the electricity that it generates," noted Kaplan. "You can't put a price on the marketing aspect of it. Pearl Road has become 'the place with the wind turbine.' You can see it for miles. We have pictures of it on our trucks. We recycle parts, and mercury switches. Now we're making our own electricity. It just follows suit."

Kaplan, who is the fourth generation of the family business, which started in 1927, looks at the turbine as the wave of the future. "I have a son who will be fifth generation," he said. "Everything that I'm doing now will help him to lower costs in the future."

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