Urban Wind Power: Just a Lot of Air?

Hot on the heels of New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s call to install wind turbines on the city’s high-rises and bridges as part of a green-energy plan, a California company has offered to donate a wind turbine to the city to demonstrate that the idea is indeed workable. Marquiss Wind Power, of Folsom, Calif., manufactures a patented ducted wind turbine (pictured) that little resembles the 200- to 300-foot-high turbines used in major wind farms. Marquiss’s Aeropoint turbines are in fact specifically intended for use on commercial and industrial buildings. According to information from Marquiss, its roof-top turbines are 19 feet high and weigh less than a typical roof-top air-conditioning unit. The company’s T500 model, optimized for “low, variable wind,” is rated at 5kw. “Unfortunately, many people think of small wind turbines as not cost effective,” Marquiss CEO Paul Misso said in a prepared statement. “In fact, the technology exists today to tap into wind power on top of roofs with compact, efficient and affordable wind turbines. These can work anywhere from high-rises to shopping centers.” The company claims that its turbines, priced at $30,000 to $60,000, will pay for themselves in four to eight years, “depending on wind speed, utility rates and available incentives.” David Wagman, managing editor of Power Generation magazine, told CPN that, despite some concerns, noise is probably not an issue with these smaller wind turbines. “The key thing,” he said, “is the quality and consistency of the wind,” and the specific problem is that cities tend not to be built where the wind quality is good. One significant upside to urban wind power, Wagman noted, is that it’s generated very close to the demand, avoiding sizable losses in transmitting the electricity over long distances. Still, he concluded, there’s probably “more show than substance” in most proposals for urban wind power. Wagman singled out the new Bank of America Tower in Manhattan as a building with cutting-edge energy features, including photo-voltaic cells in the roof and skin and a fuel-cell system for heating water. The tower is reportedly the first skyscraper designed to attain a Platinum LEED Certification.