A 1.5-kilowatt wind turbine now sits atop the 41-story Corning Tower in Albany under a joint agency pilot project that will test the production of wind power here in New York State. The Office of General Services and NYSERDA are spearheading the project, which will monitor data in real time from a Swift Wind Turbine which was installed on January 22. Although 1.5 kilowatts is less than one tenth of the electricity used daily by workers in the building, the purpose of the installation is simply to review such systems both for economic feasibility, as well as overall energy efficiency, in urban environments. The Corning Tower was selected both because it is home to OGS, but also because it is the tallest building (588 feet) between New York City and the Adirondacks.
Swift Wind Turbines are designed specifically for rooftop operation. At the Corning Tower, the $12,000 turbine is fixed to an aluminum mast and features two feet of minimum roof – blade clearance. Typically, a rooftop wind turbine will be installed at the highest point of a roof in order to capture the highest prevailing wind, but the Swift turbine will still operate effectively regardless of location at wind speeds down to eight miles per hour.
In terms of aesthetics, the turbine is not visible from the street, hidden in a maze of mechanical and other electrical equipment on the roof of the tower. The Swift Wind Turbine’s blade – ring diameter is 7 feet and the turbine produces only 35 decibels of noise when completely operational. The technology behind the turbine was developed by Michigan-based Cascade Engineering and Scotland-based Renewable Devices.
OGS and NYSERDA’s effort is important to note in the aftermath of Mayor Bloomberg’s remarks last summer in Las Vegas about installing wind turbines on buildings and bridges here in New York City. Whether or not that ultimately happens, the lessons from the Corning Tower installation can only assist local policymakers and the private sector in assessing the feasibility of building-integrated wind power systems.