News

San Francisco tilts toward wind power

Tuesday, September 29, 2009 (SF Chronicle)  Heather Knight, Chronicle Staff Writer

> The two famous windmills in Golden Gate Park could soon have a lot
> of company as a broad array of city officials, business leaders and
> environmentalists push for streamlined, modern versions to spring up
> at famous spots all over the city.
> Wind turbines could soon be built at Twin Peaks, Treasure Island,
> the Civic Center, Ocean Beach, the San Francisco Zoo, city parks and
> the airport as demonstration sites for how urban wind farms could help
> power San Francisco - and to educate residents in the hopes they'll
> put them on their rooftops.
> The recommendations are part of a report to be released today after
> a yearlong study of the potential of urban wind power, The Chronicle
> has learned.
> "We should absolutely harness the wind," said Assemblyman Tom
> Ammiano, who as a city supervisor in July 2008 joined Mayor Gavin
> Newsom in convening the urban wind power task force, which is
> publishing the report.
> "Now if we could just harness the hot air that comes out of City
> Hall and the Capitol, we'll have an answer to global warming," Ammiano
> quipped.
> The ideas proposed in the San Francisco study are intended to help
> the city reach its goal of being carbon neutral by 2030. While
> turbines are typically associated with farms and rural areas, cities
> like San Francisco are increasingly interested in using what is
> considered a cleaner energy generator.
> Boston's Logan Airport has turbines, and New York Mayor Michael
> Bloomberg has talked of installing them on skyscrapers. But task force
> members said they aren't aware of another city that's studied the idea
> in such detail.
> Expanding wind power
> San Francisco has just a few turbines now, but the 44-member task
> force - composed of leaders in the wind industry, environmentalists,
> business representatives and others - envisions a lot more.
> To get there, it wants the city to develop a wind map of San
> Francisco to show where the wind's velocity, pressure, direction and
> turbulence would work best for installing turbines.
> In addition, the group recommended the city partially offset the
> permitting costs for installing wind turbines, offer incentive
> programs for wind startups based in San Francisco, revise its green
> building codes to require that future buildings have space for
> turbines, and look at revising zoning rules that govern height limits
> for the turbines.
> Newsom plans to move forward quickly with many of the report's
> recommendations, some of which can be done through executive order.
> "We want to build turbines wherever we can," said his spokesman,
> Nathan Ballard - noting an urban wind farm could someday grace City
> Hall itself.
> Newsom, who has made his environmental initiatives as mayor a
> centerpiece of his run for governor, has often been criticized for his
> green ideas that sound intriguing, but are impractical.
> For example, he held multiple press conferences to support
> submerging giant turbines under the Golden Gate Bridge to harness
> energy, even though studies say it's financially undoable. The idea
> has stalled.
> But the urban wind idea seems to have more across-the-board
> acceptance.
> Business support
> "The technology needs to evolve and regulations need to evolve, but
> I think it's definitely viable," said John Rizzo, political chairman
> of the Sierra Club's Bay Area chapter, who has been a critic of
> Newsom's eco ideas in the past.
> Todd Pelman, president of Blue Green Pacific, which manufactures
> wind turbines in the Bayview, served on the task force.
> He said there's a long way to go in making the technology worthwhile
> for the average homeowner; right now, devices small enough to be
> installed on a home don't capture enough wind power to make the cost
> of roughly $3,000 worthwhile.
> "The fact that they even initiated this task force is probably the
> greatest value," he said. "It shows a desire and aptitude to progress
> this technology forward."
> Another unlikely wind farm could soon appear in San Francisco:
> atop the W
> Hotel. Michael Pace, general manager of the hotel, served on the task
> force and is trying to get funding to help the hotel pay to install
> two or three rooftop turbines. He envisions leading tours for other
> businesses.
> "The W is such an iconic building in San Francisco, it would have a
> lot of power from the marketing perspective," he said, adding that he
> doesn't believe wind power is one of those only-in-San Francisco
> ideas.
> "I think wind is the next big thing, and we shouldn't be shy to
> stand up and say, 'We're going to be first,' " he said.
>
> E-mail Heather Knight at hknight@sfchronicle.com.
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> Copyright 2009 SF Chronicle