Monday, February 20, 2012

Hot Topics Other Than Skin - Wind Water Turbines Power Renewable Energy


This weekend was a big one for education. I attended a couple of seminars a notable one being on Wind and Water Turbines a second installment in a discussion series with the general public sponsored by ReNew New York. A sold out standing room only crowd gathered at the Cathedral House of Saint John The Divine in Manhattan's Morningside Heights. Saint John is to be commended for it's long history of extending the spiritual dialog beyond the pulpit and expanding it to the creation that we all live and work in whose resources we use mindlessly day after day as we were inculcated to do as consumers. Sunday 2/19 we heard from Mateo Chaskel a coordinator for an outfit called Urban Green Energy (UGE) and Dan Whatmoor of Verdant power that is currently running a pilot program in the East River. Moderated by Dr. Lisa DiCaprio Clinical Associate of Social Sciences at NYU and a member of the NYU Sustainability Task Force the pair spoke on how they are using marine and wind turbines to generate power into the grid. Whatmoor 's Verdant power is the first to get a commercial license for marine turbine power in New York a lengthy process spanning 9 years. Currently there are 30 wind turbines installed by Verdant in the narrowest part of the East River with mechanisms placed on Roosevelt Island. One third of that part of the river is cordoned off for use while two thirds is free  using a total of 1.6 acres for the project. "The project, owned by Verdant Power and known as the Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy (RITE) Project, is 1,050-kilowatts and uses the East River’s natural tidal currents to generate electricity. Turbine generator units are mounted on the riverbed and capture energy from the tidal flow. The pilot license issued to Verdant Power is for 10 years."  Funding has come from various sources such as the NYC Development Corporation and there has been a kind of bidding war from multiple companies seeking to buy this "tower" that isn't even out of the development stages yet. Verdant says they are adaptable manufacturing scalable turbines. The river turbine looks like a windmill with blades pointing down into the water utilizing the current of the river to move the blades and generate power. The speed and depth of water determine the amount of energy generated. Water is 800 times more dense than air and that fact  brings to mind the film "The Weight of Water" starring Sean Penn.  Many questions were posed about the long term environmental impacts on fish and fowl which is top of mind due to Pete Seeger's Clear Water Foundation who had a book table  at the event.
A baseline has been taken to monitor conditions pre and post. Whatmoor did mention that in observations fish swim along the banks of the river when water is moving fast and that fish were found in and around the turbines when water was moving slowly although we are not sure if they suffered harm.  Working with various groups like Marine Fish and Wildlife organization  were a part of the equation to meet minimum standards for eco- safety but in an underestimation of the audience's interest we were not told what those standards were. Other questions concerning safety in the event of storms was raised. "Mechanisms" although it was not clear as to what kind - are in place to minimize any damage that would occur. From what I could surmise it is possible to store energy created in a kind of battery. The soft spoken Mr. Chaskel was harder to hear and understand as this reporter was seated out in the hallway. UGE uses a hybrid wind and solar system. Based in New York City they design and manufacture for residential and commercial use and claim they have  installations in 60  countries.
My overall impression was that there was an under estimation by the speakers, organizers and church of the passion and enthusiasm that New Yorkers have for this topic of renewable energy. The speakers would do well to go more in depth by offering detailed answers, tours and even workshops that one's teeth can be sunken into. Here in the Big Apple we are all to painfully aware of the huge amount of energy and waste this city uses  and generates on a daily basis. There is a heartfelt desire to involve children and centers of education in the dialog and action of making New York City truly a green city.
For More on Companies using Wind Energy Visit Usana Green
The next installment on The Boiler Dilemma will be held at The Community Church of New York 40 East 35 Street  March 22 from 6 to 9:30pm Suggested donations of $5 - $10 appreciated.

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