Harvesting Winds of Change Rooftop Windfarms

Thirty-three years ago, during the summer of 1976’s energy crisis, 40 people gathered on the rooftop of 519 East 11th Street in Manhattan’s East Village, beers in hand, determined to create their own power source. With enthusiasm, flavored with leftover 1960s activism, plus a good bit of pushing and hoisting, the group erected a windmill fashioned from a 30-foot farm turbine on the roof of their building.

The experiment in wind energy so impressed the public that politicians applauded it and the MacNeil/Lehrer Report filmed an installment of its television show on the building’s roof. The turbine supplied part of the building’s electricity needs for years before it was dismantled, but the idea that inspired that first rooftop windmill lives on.

The new energy crisis has made co-op and condo administrators scrutinize their bottom lines, and alternative energy sources are figuring more prominently in their solutions to their cash crunches. These days, developers are constructing residential buildings with the intention of having part of the building’s energy needs supplied by wind power. Some consider these forays into alternative energy experimental, but others feel that they are viable solutions to a very pressing problem.

Old Ideas Anew

Alternative energy sources are in the news these days thanks to high fuel prices, the recession, and the growing number of residents interested in decreasing their own environmental impact. To meet those growing demands, a handful of New York City buildings have installed miniature “wind farms” on their roofs to utilize air power to supply them with energy and save residents money. Early adopters of this green technology are pioneers of a sort, openly experimenting to determine how wind technology works best in a vertical urban environment.

Les Bluestone, a partner with Manhattan-based Blue Sea Development, has done enough research to expect that the wind farm his company is planning for The Eltona, a five-story, 63 unit residential development at 429 East 156th Street in the Melrose section of the Bronx, will work. His company began introducing LEED-certified green projects about eight years ago, and was the first in the state to offer Energy Star buildings back in 2001. The idea of using wind power technology piqued Bluestone’s interest early on. “We ran across a California company that had these prototypes,” he says, and the company began working on ways to introduce it to the New York market. Enrolled in NYSERDA’s Multifamily Performance program and the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for Homes program, The Eltona will also be the subject of a Mount Sinai School of Medicine study, analyzing the effects of green living for those families suffering from asthma.

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