Rooftop Turbines vs. Offshore Wind Farms

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Photo: Søren Krohn via

It was good news for eco-conscious New Yorkers (and a joke to others) when Mayor Bloomberg suggested the installation of wind turbines atop city buildings and bridges or wind farms a ways offshore. The question is: which would be more effective? And which is more feasible? Let's break down some of the pros and cons of the Big Apple's wind power options.Offshore Wind Farms
There's much more space offshore, obviously, than in a crowded metropolitan area like Manhattan. Turbines in a wind farm are typically spaced out and angled strategically to maximize the energy potential of the wind.

This is how an extensive wind farm off the coast of New York could provide up to 10% of the city's needs, as the mayor said. Wind is stronger, and blows more consistently over the ocean.
However, much of the land off the coast must be leased from the federal government, as a New York Times article on the mayor's wind power plan pointed out. This could be highly discouraging to potential private investors in wind energy, and the bureaucratic process that would ensue for those who are interested may make for a long wait before we see any actual spinning blades offshore.

Finally, it would be incredibly expensive to build wind farms offshore—up to 50 to 100 percent more expensive than building onshore or inland farms, according to some estimates.

Rooftop Wind Turbines
There are problems with building in the city, too. Most people probably wouldn't be too happy with wind turbines popping up on their roofs, jutting out atop neighbor's buildings, or altering Manhattan's classic skyline—even if they were made in a subtle eggbeater turbine design and "integrated into the spires atop the city's tall buildings." (NY Times)

Plus, there's far less room to adequately angle and space the turbines, and they'd be much less effective. And there would still be plenty of red tape to wade through in order to broker a leasing process between interested companies and NY landowners. But it would be less expensive, and every little bit could help—like this already-suggested plan to install turbines on the Queensboro Bridge.

Whichever Way the Wind Blows
It's tough to say what the best course of action would be from here on out, but the successful installation of a few minor onshore turbines might encourage larger, more effective (and expensive) projects like the proposed offshore wind farms.

More on Wind Turbines and Wind Power:
New Wind Power Record in Spain
Queen of England Buys World's Largest Wind Turbine

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