Residential On-site wind – Is it possible in an urban environment?

18 04 2008

We’ve recently been doing some research about on-site energy generation using wind as the source for a brownstone project in Harlem. What have we found?

First of all, there is a LOT of interest in the consumer community for clean alternative energy generation but not many options….yet.

There are more than a few companies working on residential wind generating turbines, allowing a home to create enough power for the home and sometimes even additional power, depending on the location. However, the homes that fit in this category are generally situated on a nice large piece of land, with plenty of space to install these devices.

Since our work takes place primarily within the 5 Boroughs of New York City, we are much more interested in “small wind” devices (I love that term) that can be used in a more densely packed urban environment.

What have we found for urban settings? A much different case.

There are very few wind companies currently producing an appropriate wind turbine suitable for an urban setting, even in a windy urban environment such as Manhattan or Brooklyn. Here in Brooklyn, we scored a “Good – Class 3” (out of 7) on the wind power resource scale at choose renewables. Our clients in Harlem only scored an “Average – Class 2” but this tool only really deals with broad strokes. The Harlem house is up on a hill and feels way windier than where I live in Brooklyn….but I digress.

There are some models that we’ve found that seem like great options for our projects, however it will still be some time before we’re able to incorporate one of these in a renovation in our local communities. Most of the companies we spoke with were still completing their research or were trying to develop nationwide distribution that would allow them to sell directly to consumers

At first I was very encouraged when I called Helix Wind

because they suggested a feasibility study for $1,500 where they would install an anonemetry (sp?) system and monitor it for a 3-month period. They would also review the local zoning and building codes and if the location was a good candidate, they would then give us pricing for the system.

However, (yes, that’s bold AND underlined), at this time they do NOT recommend attaching these devices to old houses because of the possibility that the resonant frequency(ies) caused the movement of the unit may cause structural damage over time. They recommend installing the unit(s) on tall poles in the yard with the unit above the level of the roof (no WAY will Landmarks approve that). They are still conducting tests to determine these structural loads and come up with solutions that the company is comfortable with.

I also called Oregon Wind, whose beautiful green turbine is shown at the top of this post, and Enviro Engineers (magwind)

mag wind

and they both are doing testing and working out production and distribution issues and are not going to be ready for sale before the end of the year.

Other companies we researched:

Windside, in Finland who has done several installations overseas.

Pacwind: This company is out of California (and has done an installation at Jay Leno’s home), and we’re still researching if this would be a good solution. The height may be problematic with Landmarks.

Please let us know if you’ve had experience using a wind energy generation device in a city setting – your ideas, opinions and thoughts are gladly welcome!




3 responses

18 04 2008


I like the vertical axis designs. Not only do they take up less real estate, it appears they would be more wildlife-friendly, eg: less likely to harm migrating birds and bats.

I wouldn’t want to attach one to my house, though. Maybe my garage.

I have another idea for placement: Instead of attaching them to buildings, replace the utility poles which run through our backyards with (some of) these. These would be less of an eyesore (to my tastes) than the existing poles. And the poles would be generating electricity, not just distributing it. Since they’re not attached to the buildings themselves, they’re less of a concern for LPC.

They would have to be REALLY tall, though, to clear the trees. And noise pollution must be addressed before they can become acceptable in residential areas, especially 20 feet from someone’s bedroom window.

4 05 2008

Really great designs. So much fun for engineers and architects. Let human creativity flourish in harmony with nature.

18 05 2008
pacwind turbines

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