Coastal Cities Climb on Wind Bandwagon, or Try To

Even as Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens is attracting national attention with his proposal to vastly increase U.S. reliance on wind energy, meeting personally with presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain to focus attention on the huge wind potential found in the nation's Great Plains states, cities at opposite sides of the country are seeking to get in on the action. Earlier this week, New York City 's Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced an initiative to explore all possible applications of wind in the greater metropolitan area, which he believes could have the city relying on wind for 10 percent of its electricity within a decade.

Bloomberg's speech, in which he evoked an image of the Statue of Liberty's torch being illuminated by green energy, got wide attention in the local press--initially positive, but then quite critical and skeptical. Bloomberg himself backed off from his suggestion the day after making it, expressing doubt as to whether wide deployment of wind in the city would actually make sense.

Separately but complementarily, Bloomberg announced the week before the creation of an expert task force to study how critical infrastructure can be adapted to the effects of climate change. This initiative may be the one that turns out to have more staying power. The panel will be co-chaired by Cynthia Rosenzweig, of Columbia University's Earth Institute, and William Solecki, director of Hunter College's Institute for Sustainable Cities. Rosenzweig and colleagues have been actively advising the city on global warming and infrastructure for several years, and already have issued pioneering studies that have attracted attention in other megacities around the world.

Meanwhile, earlier this summer San Franciso Mayor Gavin Newsom announced creation of a residential wind working group, tasked with figuring out how to revamp the city's zoning and building codes to allow wind turbines on private lots. On July 25, San Francisco issued an "over-the-counter permitting process for residential and commercial wind turbines," as one of the companies hoping to capitalize on the streamlined procedures--Whirligig--put in in a press release. Both the New York City and San Francisco initiatives open opportunities for companies marketing what might be called personal windmills, among which Whirligig is just one.

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