MICHAEL BARBARO, The New York Times, August 20, 2008
In a plan that would drastically remake New York City’s skyline and shores, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is seeking to put wind turbines on the city’s bridges and skyscrapers and in its waters as part of a wide-ranging push to develop renewable energy.
The plan, while still in its early stages, appears to be the boldest environmental proposal to date from the mayor, who has made energy efficiency a cornerstone of his administration.
Mr. Bloomberg said he would ask private companies and investors to study how windmills can be built across the city, with the aim of weaning it off the nation’s overtaxed power grid, which has produced several crippling blackouts in New York over the last decade.
Mr. Bloomberg did not specify which skyscrapers and bridges would be candidates for windmills, and city officials would need to work with property owners to identify the buildings that would best be able to hold the equipment.
But aides said that for offshore locations, the city was eyeing the generally windy coast off Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island for turbines that could generate 10 percent of the city’s electricity needs within 10 years.
“When it comes to producing clean power, we’re determined to make New York the No. 1 city in the nation,” Mr. Bloomberg said as he outlined his plans in a speech Tuesday night in Las Vegas, where a major conference on alternative energy is under way.
He later evoked the image of the Statue of Liberty’s torch, saying he imagined it one day “powered by an ocean wind farm.”
But the mayor’s proposal for wind power faces several serious obstacles: People are likely to oppose technologies that alter the appearance of their neighborhoods; wind-harnessing technology can be exceedingly expensive; and Mr. Bloomberg has less than 18 months left in office to put a plan into place.
Turning New York City into a major source of wind power would likely take years, if not decades, and could require a thicket of permits from state and federal agencies. Parts of New York’s coastline, for example, are controlled by the federal government, from which private companies must lease access.
Mr. Bloomberg is known for introducing ambitious proposals that later collapse, as did his congestion-pricing plan for Manhattan.
But aides said he was committed to developing alternative energy sources in the city, and wanted to jump-start the discussion now.
“In New York,” he said in his speech, “we don’t think of alternative power as something that we just import from other parts of the nation.”
Asserting the seriousness of his intentions, aides said, Mr. Bloomberg met privately with T. Boone Pickens, the oil baron who is trying to build the world’s largest wind farm in Texas, to discuss possibilities for such technology in New York.
And on Tuesday afternoon the city issued a formal request to companies around the country for proposals to build wind-, solar- and water-based energy sources in New York. “We want their best ideas for creating both small- and large-scale projects serving New Yorkers,” Mr. Bloomberg said.
Rohit Aggarwala, the director of the city’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, said that turbines on buildings would likely be much smaller than offshore ones. Several companies are experimenting with models that look like eggbeaters, which the Bloomberg administration says could be integrated into the spires atop the city’s tall buildings. “”You can make them so small that people think they are part of the design,” Mr. Aggarwala said.
“If rooftop wind can make it anywhere, this is a great city,” he said. “We have a lot of tall buildings.”
Creating an offshore wind farm, he said, requires “pretty much the same level of difficulty as drilling an oil rig, but you don’t have to pump oil.”
“You could imagine going as much as 15, 20, 25 miles offshore, where it’s virtually invisible to land,” he said.
Mr. Aggarwala said that developing renewable energy for New York would take considerable time. “Nobody is going to see a wind farm off the coast of Queens in the next year,” he said.
But “the idea of renewable power in and around New York City is very realistic,” he said. “The question is what type makes the most sense and in what time frame. That is what we are trying to figure out.”
The city has experimented with wind power before. It put a turbine on city-owned land at 34th Street and the East River several years ago, but found that the technology was not efficient enough to expand.
The mayor’s plan includes the widespread use of solar panels, possibly on the roofs of public and private buildings. One proposal is to allow companies to rent roofs for solar panels and sell the energy they harvest to residents.
The city is already using tidal turbines under the East River that provide energy to Roosevelt Island. That technology could be widely expanded under the mayor’s proposal.