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Wind power helps LI entrepreneur go off the grid

The cluttered Westhampton workshop of Roy Rakobitsch is a temple to experiments past.

He pulls a broken propeller from a mass of mangled parts.

"There's a whole pile of Whispers right there," he says of a small-scale wind turbine model he used for some of his early trials. It had a habit of flying off its tower.

Rakobitsch calls himself an RE guy - for renewable energy. As a kid, he dragged around batteries, wires, lightbulbs. Broken appliances were his Legos.

Now, he builds windmills.

Rakobitsch, 30, owns Windsine, a company that designs, installs and repairs solar and wind systems. His home and workshop - both on the Westhampton property his grandparents once owned - operate entirely on his own juice. In other words: He's off the grid.

Rakobitsch grew up here, studied electrical engineering at DeVry University, and all the while played with solar panels, wind turbines, ham radios. Eight years ago, he decided to see if he could live off the electricity generated from things he made himself.

Today, a solar-panel array stands near his vegetable garden, and nearby three hand carved wooden blades spin atop a 90-foot lattice tower. Chickens peck in the yard near a tractor powered by electricity and a backup generator that runs on reclaimed vegetable oil. So does his truck, a Mitsubishi Fuso.

Rakobitsch is part of a national grassroots movement to make wind energy more accessible and affordable. Can't afford a residential model like the $25,000 Skystream 3.7? Rakobitsch can build you a wind machine for $2,500. You could also build one yourself: An open-source design is available online, and parts cost $600. Tower not included.

On a chilly afternoon outside his workshop, he lifts a joined pair of half-inch-thick steel discs: a turbine generator. Between them are copper coils and powerful magnets.

"There's a lot of math that goes into getting it to turn right," he says.

He takes time out from tinkering to attend public hearings in towns considering new guidelines for wind turbines, where he offers help about such matters as wind velocity.

His advice: Fly 'em high.

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