NIMBY: Wind Power
Climate change is an ongoing, global issue. This year, 191 countries are meeting in South Africa to discuss, among other issues, ways to lower carbon emissions and switch to renewable energy sources in order to prevent future damages to the environment. Despite the apparent need for drastic change, most countries are not willing to back their environmental friendly promises with actions. These countries are suffering from NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) syndrome.
On a smaller scale, New York City is no different. While most New Yorkers claim they want to ‘go green’ they aren’t willing to make big sacrifices in their own lives. They may take part by recycling, walking more or taking public transportation but they refuse to allow innovative systems and technologies into their community if it would “alter the [neighborhood’s] appearance.”[i]
Our project focuses on the need for renewable wind power in NYC and the NIMBY opposition wind farm projects have faced.
Renewable Energy and NYC
By the year 2015, NYC plans to run on 30% renewable energy. In a city that can use up to 13,000 megawatts of electricity a year that means 3,900 megawatts must be produced by wind turbines, solar panels, geothermal heat or water turbines.
Currently, 6 megawatts are produced by solar panels located on several rooftops throughout the five boroughs. In the future, up to 2/3 of the rooftops could successfully harbor solar energy which would help subsidize utility bills up to 50%, increase property value, help prevent black outs and -most importantly- reduce greenhouse gas emissions at an alarming rate. [ii]
While solar panels are relatively reliable and pretty unconstructive, NYC is also a prime location for wind power.
There is not much free space in NYC’s 305 square miles to build the extensive wind farms that would be needed to replace fossil fuels entirely, but environmentalists say we should use the space available in NYC wisely.
One method of harvesting wind energy is already being used by some building owners. Wind turbines that look like giant desk fans have been designed specifically for building rooftops. This allows the power to be used directly by the buildings without passing through a utility line. These individual wind turbines have many of the same benefits as solar panels: subsidized utilities up to 50%, help preventing black outs and most importantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions at an alarming rate. Plus, they can produce energy 24 real hours a day. [iii]
Proposed NYC Wind Farms
Aside from rooftop wind turbines, two large wind farms have been proposed for NYC. The first proposed would be on Staten Island at the site of the former Fresh Kills Landfill and the second would be located 15 miles off the coast of Far Rockaway, Queens. Although these wind farms are environmentally sound, many community members are opposed to building wind turbines in their area because of they are dwelling on the common misconceptions associated with wind power.
–Fresh Kills Wind Farm
The site of the Fresh Kills Landfill was once a thriving estuary with a vivacious ecosystem. But, for over half a century, Fresh Kills was a dumping point for NYC waste. For the latter half of the 20th century, it was the sole dumping point for NYC and grew to be the world’s largest landfill.
Since it’s closure in 2001, the NYC Parks and Recreation department has been interested in utilizing the once undesirable land to create a park about three times the size of Central Park. The new Fresh Kills Park would emphasize its benefits to the environment as one of its greatest assets. The Park would become a habitat for a multitude flora and wildlife. While the construction has begun and finished parts of the park are open for visitors, the park and its habitat will not be fully complete for approximately 30 years. [iv]
In 2004, Staten Island’s Borough President Molinaro first advocated building a wind farm in the new park. The energy produced on the farm would be enough to power 10,000 houses – more than enough for the park and many of its neighbors. The seven-turbine wind farm would produce 100% clean energy. Because no greenhouse gasses (GHGs) would be produced if the park ran on wind energy, the park would become a CO2 sink and help negate the 13 millions pounds of C02 produced in NYC annually. [v]
Many community members are advocates of the Fresh Kills Park. After decades of living next to a landfill, a park would be a wonderful change in the atmosphere. They support the efforts to make a cleaner New York City through building a new park but, when presented with the idea of having wind turbines in the park, many who originally supported the park become wary of the decision.
Despite New Yorker’s apparent interest in ‘going green’, many feel that having a park by itself will do enough for the environment. The added benefits of using wind power are lost amongst arguments over how much noise the turbines create, the unattractiveness of wind turbines, the cost of building the farm or the threat the turbines would pose to local and migratory bird populations. Although some of the concerns are logical, they clearly represent a NIMBY attitude. [vi]
In order to compromise with NIMBY sentiment, the NYC Parks and Recreation department has opted to let the Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI) use the Fresh Kills Park in their 2012 competition. The LAGI is a competition that challenges artist and engineers to design a unique, aesthetically pleasing, renewable energy source specific for a designated plot of land. The Parks and Rec. department hopes that the designing teams will be able to utilize the land in a way that would please the community. (Previous entries for the 2010 competition included swaying wind stalks and solar pyramids).
Also, Borough President Molinaro is trying to get private funding for the wind farms. The private funds would come form companies that want to invest in wind energy. Ideally, the companies would be willing to pay for all the expenses and the wind farm construction would cost NYC absolutely nothing. [vii]
Over the next 30 years, the designs for the Fresh Kills Park are destined be revised and any number of events could change the project drastically. Hopefully, with the approval of the community, a renewable energy source will be implemented in the park -whether it be wind turbines or a new and innovative source- so that the Staten Island community, the rest of NYC, and the world can enjoy the benefits of clean energy.
–Far Rockaway Wind Farm
In 2009, NY Governor Patterson announced that a collaboration of companies (Con Edison, Long Island Power Authority and New York Power Authority) were looking to build a 350 MW wind farm. The farm would be built in the Atlantic Ocean, 15 miles off the coast of Far Rockaway, Queens and span to the Nassau/Suffolk border. The 350 MW farm would consist of 70 wind turbines that would annually produce enough energy to, at its least efficient projection, power 112,000 homes. At maximum power generation, 280,000 homes would be powered by the turbines. If the 350 MW farm bodes well, plans to expand to a 700 MW farm would be put into action. The expansion would allow nearly 40% of households on Queens and Long Island to be fueled by renewable energy instead of fossil fuels. [viii]
This is the second proposed wind farm for the area. In 2007, a plan was proposed to build a wind farm further east, directly off the coast of Jones Beach, but cohorts of angry community members from the banded together and stopped the project almost immediately. They claimed that the turbines would be too close to shore and it would disrupt the scenery. They were also worried about the cost efficiency of the project.
For the newer plan, studies have already been conducted to see what the wind turbines would look like from shore. The following visual simulation, made from the perspective of someone at Rockaway Beach, shows that the wind turbines would be harder to discern than the barges that are constantly entering NYC ports. Because the turbines are so far away, vision of the ocean would hardly be interrupted by their presence. [ix]
As for the cost efficiency, the companies explain why the project would cost upwards of 400 millions dollars. The price of building an offshore wind farm includes the salt-water friendly material needed for the turbines, lines to connect the turbines to power girds on land, and the labor, among other things. But, because of the enormity of the farm, estimated energy production would be great enough to offset energy costs in the long run. Also, the companies would look into private investors to subsidize the cost. [x]
For this project, the community has been less active. The companies have been very straightforward in their execution of this project and have kept the public informed of every step being taken. Their website gives updates on the project and allows community members to contact them directly with questions.
Unfortunately, this project has been delayed by the project leaders. Because of so many other projects going on in the LI-NYC area, the wind farm project has not gotten as much attention as it needs. While the companies applied for land leases in the Atlantic by the June 1st deadline in 2010, they have been unable to finish required studies needed to push forward. But, they are working as best they can to ensure the project comes to fruition.
If no other interruptions arise, the commercial operation of the LI-NYC wind farm could begin by the year 2016. [xi]
The Truth About Wind Power
Many people are afraid to have wind farms built in their community because they are unaware of all the facts dealing with the issue.
Common misconception 1: Wind power is uneconomical, especially during a recession.
• There is a large capital investment (generally between $1.5 million and $3.5 million for 2MW wind turbine) but companies using wind power receive tax deductions and other such benefits. [xii]
• Before taxes, wind power is cheaper than both natural gas and nuclear energy.
• On buildings where individual wind turbines are built, energy is brought directly into houses so utility bills are subsidized by up to 50%.
• Wind farms create 30% more jobs than coal plant and 66% more jobs than a nuclear power plant per unit of energy generated. [xiii]
Common Misconception 2: Wind turbines will disrupt the environment surrounding the wind farms.
• Sound produced by wind turbines, especially near NYC, would have no negative effects on the surrounding environment.
• Newer models for wind turbine farms allow plants and animals to continue living without much interruption near the base of the turbines. [xiv]
• Wind turbines will severely decrease the amount of GHGs emitted into the atmosphere each year. [Greenhouse gasses cause heat to get trapped in the atmosphere which leads to global warming and smog which leads to acid rain.]
Common Misconception 3: Wind energy is an unreliable source of energy.
• Unlike solar energy, wind energy can be harnessed 24 hours a day.
• Off-shore wind farms generate energy during hot, dry summer days when inland wind farms are generating their least energy. [xv] (Benefit for building off of Far Rockaway.)
• Because of new technology, kinetic energy produced during peak windy periods can be stored in grids, in various forms of energy, to use during less windy periods.
This semester our class focused on how the human race effects the environment. The subject matter explored a relatively new field of science and what we learned was information about how much of an impact the human race has actually had on the environment, mainly since the industrial revolution.
In our class, we also looked at projections for the future.
If the human race procreates, gains wealth and uses energy at the projected rates, our grandchildren will be born into a world not fit for living.
In order to avoid this fate, it is essential that NYC, and the rest of the world, embraces wind power sources and other sources of renewable energy. This will ensure that our world will remain viable for generations to come. If everyone sets aside their NIMBY ideals for the good of the future, the world will become a cleaner, healthier place to live.
[i] Rovzar, Chris. “Bloomber Wants to Turn NYC Into Windy City,” Aug. 20, 2008 @ http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2008/08/bloomberg_wants_to_turn_nyc_in.html
[ii] Hargreaves, Steve. “New York City’s Solar Power Push,” July 25, 2011 @ http://money.cnn.com/2011/07/25/technology/solar-new-york/index.htm
[iii] Huges, C. J.. “A Cleaner Way to Keep the City Running,” Jan. 2, 2009 @ http://www.nytimes.com/ 2009/01/04/realestate/04post.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss
[iv] Ryan. “Fresh Kills Park and the Role of Restoration Ecology in Redefining the Urban Landscape,” Nov. 29, 2011 @ http://blogs.cornell.edu/bioee1610/2011/11/29/fresh-kills-park-and-the-role-of-restoration-ecology-in-redefining-the-urban-landscape/
[v] “Wind Power at Fresh Kills,” 2011 @ http://www.statenislandusa.com/pdf/SIwindmills_Final.pdf
[vi] Chan, Sewell. “Fresh Kills, New York’s Next Wind Farm?” August 22, 2008 @ http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/08/22/fresh-kills-new-yorks-next-wind-farm/
[vii] “Wind Power at Fresh Kills,” 2011 @ http://www.statenislandusa.com/pdf/SIwindmills_Final.pdf
[viii] “Frequently Asked Questions,” Dec 14, 2010 @ http://www.linycoffshorewind.com/faq.html
[ix] edr. “LI-NYC Offshore Wind Project,” @ http://www.edrcompanies.com/li-nyc_offshore/
[x] edr “Frequently Asked Qustions,” 2011 @ http://www.linycoffshorewind.com/faq.html
[xi] Dinneny, Kerri. “LIPA Wind Farm Delayed,” June 6, 2011 @ http://www.rockawave.com/news/2011-06-10/Top_Stories/LIPA_Wind_Farm_Delayed.html
[xii] “Investment Costs,” Januaray, 2008 @ http://www.wind-energy-the-facts.org/en/part-3-economics-of-wind-power/chapter-1-cost-of-on-land-wind-power/cost-and-investment-structures/
[xiii] “Why Wind Energy?” 2010 @ http://www.windustry.org/wind-basics/learn-about-wind-energy/wind-basics-why-wind-energy/why-wind-energy
[xiv] Jesiolowski, Gabrielle. “Wind Stalk,” Aug. 5, 2010 @ http://atelierdna.com/?p=144
[xv] “About the Offshore Wind Farm Partner Ship,” 2011 @ http://www.linycoffshorewind.com/about.html