Living on the river’s edge has exposed me to how much wind New York City experiences: The other day as I turned the corner onto the West Side Highway, I leaned my full body weight into the wind to propel myself forwards. Thats quite a lot of energy considering the masses of deserts I’ve consumed recently.
It made me realize how much energy surrounds us every day that we simply don’t tap into at all. We have huge flags flying around the city, mostly on rooftops, but not a single windmill or wind turbine. Imagine every building in Manhattan had a windmill or turbine generating electricity? A single 1MW turbine operating at a 45% production rate will generate about 3.9 milion kW of electricity in a year. This would be enough to meet the needs of about 500 households per year. Imagine we had many more, smaller, less obtrusive windmills each producing enough power for 100 households?
New York City is the perfect environment to achieve notable results through numbers because of its scale: For example, by addressing leaks, waste and lower flow shower heads and toilets, New York City reduced its water consumption by 28% from 1979 to 2006. Now imagine 50% of buildings were to install a simple wind turbine on their roofs. Or a set of solar panels. I stare every day at the US Post Office building on 11th Avenue and 24th Street and wonder how much energy the building could produce if it replaced the 12 or so light posts and flag posts with wind turbines on its roof.
We all need to take a long, hard look at the viability of Nuclear energy in the shadow of the recent Japanese disaster. Yes, nuclear energy is extremely efficient and extremely safe. Unfortunately, when things go bad, the level of bad is so awful and destructive we have to ask ourselves whether there is an alternative? Yes, nuclear energy may be much cheaper, but what will be the price of un-doing the damage in Japan: that cost has to be added to the bottom line.