Larry O'Connor isn’t the kind of guy who tilts at windmills. He's the kind who buys them.
With a Vestas V39, 500 kilowatt wind turbine spinning above his Woodstock, Illinois’ based Other World Computing, O'Connor is supplying his company with the energy he needs and then pumping all the excess power back onto the electrical grid.
"There is a little cost on the front end,” the computer entrepreneur conceded, "but between the environmental benefits and the straight costs, it’s a win-win in the long term."
O’Connor’s almost 200-foot tall turbine is only one way OWC is going green on a grand scale.
The company’s 37,000 square foot building is LEED platinum certified, and uses less energy than a typical building a quarter its size. Even the bathrooms are resource efficient with LEDs replacing florescent lights and waterless fixtures instead of traditional urinals. The lights will save an estimated 10 percent on energy costs. The urinals will save about 40,000 gallons of water.
While you will see bottled water on desks around almost any company, you won’t find any at OWC. The company purifies it’s own water and pumps it through the sinks and water fountains. The plastic bottles from soda, and all paper waste are recycled and stored for pickup so trucks leave the facility with a full load.
"Every little detail counts," O’Connor says.
Under the ground on the OWC property are pipes running 100-200 feet deep for the geo-thermal heating system. Inside, sensors balance the lights in the warehouse with natural light coming in from skylights . Uneeded fixtures can be turned off on a bulb-by-bulb basis.
O'Connor said OWC is going green not because it has to, but because it wants to.
"Instead of governments mandating what companies should do, they should show people how to do this," he said.
O’Connor is especially proud of his company’s ability to reduce the solid waste it produces.
He estimates he’s cut the amount by 96 percent. You can judge that by the last time the refuse company emptied OWC’s containers: August of 2009.