San Francisco Department of the Environment

Case Study: Wind & Solar Powered Home in the Mission

One of the most prominent wind turbines in San Francisco is found in a quiet area of the Mission District, powering the remodeled home of Robin Wilson, a general contractor and owner of the wind turbine distribution company Whirligig, Inc.

The turbine is a horizontal-axis Skystream 3.7, designed by Southwest Windpower and installed by Wilson’s company Meridian Builders and Developers, in early 2007.

The Skystream is designed to power grid-connected homes and can start spinning with winds as low as 8mph. Wilson reports that her Skystream generates up to 300 kWh per month, which is about 85% of the electric power consumed in the average San Francisco home. For days that aren’t so windy, her home also boasts a 5 kW solar PV array, and a solar water heating system consisting of 150 evacuated tubes. All of this alternative power and hot water generation allows Wilson to enjoy a small indoor pool, sauna, and radiant floor heating without paying the energy bills normally associated with such luxuries.

Wilson’s house was awarded LEED Certification for its green building achievements, but the wind turbine and solar arrays are only part of the reason. As a general contractor, Wilson says she is always encouraging her clients to go green, and wanted to build a house to showcase as many green materials and functions as possible. “Not everybody can do everything, but I wanted to show all the different possibilities, from energy efficient light bulbs to green building materials. I built it as a demonstration house.” Among the numerous green features, Wilson’s house includes a planted living roof, rainwater catchment tanks, a gray water recycling system, and recycled or sustainably grown wood used throughout the house. During the remodel, 90% of all construction waste was recycled. By sharing these green features with visitors and guests, Wilson hopes to see more sustainable building practices and alternative power generation used throughout San Francisco in the future.