July 31, 2008
Is The Wind Of Change Blowing Through San Francisco?
The number of San Francisco based wind-energy companies (four) currently outnumbers the residential turbine installations (three), but the wind of change appears to be blowing.
Earlier this month, Newsom eliminated one of The City’s biggest barriers to residential wind energy by sending out directives asking planning and building-inspection departments to “expedite permitting and minimize costs” needed to install residential, commercial and municipal wind turbines in The City.
Prospective wind harvesters have been hamstrung by the lack of a standard turbine-permit application process, said San Francisco builder Robin Wilson [think Sunset Idea House], a task force member who last year founded Whirligig Inc., which sells and installs turbines.
Until now, San Francisco has been able to take only small steps on the path to wind power, those paved by city supervisors who have supported individual wind projects in their districts. Supervisor Tom Ammiano, a task-force member, tweaked height rules to help Todd Pelman, founder of the San Francisco start-up Blue Green Pacific, install a turbine on his Bernal Heights home. Board colleague Bevan Dufty also helped secure a permit for a residential turbine on a home in the Castro.
In addition to encouraging wind-power technology for residents and businesses, Newsom also ordered city departments to incorporate wind turbines into city facilities “whenever and wherever possible” in his July 17 directives.
Our apologies to Prime Minister Macmillan for the headline.
∙ The magic of wind power [Examiner]
∙ The SocketSite Scoop: Half Of The Sunset Idea House Hits The Market [SocketSite]
First Published: July 31, 2008 7:45 AM
Comments from "Plugged In" Readers
This is a great thing.
Posted by: Michael L. at July 31, 2008 8:15 AM
There's so much wind in SF. That's a very good step.
Posted by: San FronziScheme at July 31, 2008 8:26 AM
Probably the most significant effect of this move is as a NIMBY neutralizer.
Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at July 31, 2008 8:34 AM
Yes, a fantastic step. Between a consistent source of windpower and largely-untapped solar power, SF could supply a significant percentage of its own power. Even better, both the mid-afternoon winds and the reliable sun appear during peak usage hours when power is at its most expensive. This is particularly important as we are fairly cut-off from much of the ISO transmission grid, being a peninsula.
Posted by: Trip at July 31, 2008 8:50 AM
I know I'll get flamed for this but here goes:
Has anyone discussed the noise issue from these wind turbines? When they're running they do make a constant rushing sound.
I don't want to have to hear that in my back yard from my neighbors wind machine. Plus they are fairly large and not that attractive. It's not unlike allowing a utility pole in the back yard. I applaud the use of solor panels..and yes, wind power has its' place for "some" renewable energy.
But I think wind turbines are out of place in the back yards or roof tops of most neighborhoods.
Posted by: noearch at July 31, 2008 8:55 AM
They could put those turbines on the Golden Gate bridge. That would make an awesome suicide barrier!
/aisle seat, please.
Posted by: vox at July 31, 2008 9:16 AM
yes sanfronzi plenty of wind here.
Pelosi, Daly, Feinstein, etc.
noearch - i completely agree. the ugliness of wind towers is one of the biggest issues with this source of energy and putting them on SF rooftops is not the right solution.
Posted by: resp at July 31, 2008 9:16 AM
This is an example of the kind of silliness for which San Francisco is world-renowned.
Ask yourself: What is the cost per kilowatt-hour for electricity generated by your very own roof turbine?
Posted by: Anonymous at July 31, 2008 9:34 AM
I know I'll get flamed for this but here goes:
Has anyone discussed the noise issue from automotive traffic on city streets ? All day long there is a constant growling, grinding, howling sound.
I don't want to have to hear that everywhere I go from my neighbors and everybody else's overbuilt transportation machine. Plus they are fairly large and not that attractive. It's not unlike allowing people to park dumpsters everywhere. I applaud the use of quieter, less visually intrusive modes like bikes and subways..and yes, combustion powered buses, taxis, and cars have their place for "some" transportation.
But I think ubiquitous use of cars is out of place on streets and lots of most neighborhoods.
Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at July 31, 2008 9:35 AM
How much does the thing shown in the video actually cost (include annual upkeep), and how much energy does it actually produce?
Aesthetics/noise aside, "My Gut" says it's not worth it, but my gut has been wrong before...
If nobody knows, we are all blowing hot air!
@Milkshake: exactly! This is why I think every SF should restrict all vehicle ownership in the city to all-electric cars no older than three years (I'll leave it to you to figure if I'm serious).
Posted by: dub dub at July 31, 2008 10:06 AM
Milkshake, great idea. Those pesky cars are definitely a nuisance.
Posted by: San FronziScheme at July 31, 2008 10:14 AM
So much downing of innovation today. These turbines don't make that much noise; no more then your combustion engine rolling down the street (LOL). These are fantastic. I think they look very attractive. Gotta start with that one step first. Please no negativity about forward thinking activity.
Posted by: Michael L. at July 31, 2008 10:19 AM
I've got news for you:
1. Electric cars are GOING to be here.
2. When you get an electric car, your power usage goes OVER the baseline, by quite a bit, and you end up paying 40 cents per KwH.
3. Wind is about 20-40 cents per KwH.
4. The power distribution system cannot handle the load that will be generated by electric cars. The costs of the infrastructure required to upgrade to allow central power plants to supply all that electricity the cars will need will be prohibitive. The only solution is at least some amount of distributed power generation like home wind or solar.
5. We probably have no choice but to install wind and solar: both are ugly, but wind turbines can be hidden (unlike solar, which need to have access to the sunlight). The noise thing can be minimized for wind. You'll get used to it.
Posted by: tipster at July 31, 2008 10:24 AM
I couldn't agree more. But even though they are probably not the best efficient use of someone's money for renewable energy, at least it put windpower on the map.
It would be much more efficient to use the vast expanses of desert (people used to call them wasteland in the 19th century) where land is nearly free and the sound/visual impact is minimal. In these conditions, a 1MW wind turbine costs in the range of 1.5M total cost, or $1500 per KW. A household using 3KW would cost less than 5K to power by wind. Of course, it's not that simple, there are other factors involved.
Germans are going massively towards wind power. It's a big upfront investment, but I think our kids will thank us later, just like French kids today thank their parents for the 59 nuclear plants providing 80% of the power in France.
Posted by: San FronziScheme at July 31, 2008 10:26 AM
I hope we're going electric soon.
Good point about the infrastructure. But looking at the current downturn, large investments in infrastructure wouldn't be a bad bet at this point.
The great thing about electric cars is that they'll probably never go obsolete. Whatever is used as a power source by the utilities always come out as elecricity.
Posted by: San FronziScheme at July 31, 2008 10:36 AM
Don't we like our birds in San Fran and whatnot? Bird kills are a serious problem with wind turbines. I guess it's cool in the Mission, where the number of bird species is 1, and not a likable one.
Posted by: Mike Robbins at July 31, 2008 10:47 AM
I'm a big fan of all-electric (not hybrid) cars, infrastructure/pollution aside, but I don't think they should be mandated (let the price of gas work its wonders).
@SFScheme: Agree -- And I don't think you need a "break even" result to do some of this stuff (e.g., I would *always* pay more to own than to rent). But I think for these individual turbines, it's way out of wack, tho I'd welcome some data...
Does anyone out there do this?
Posted by: dub dub at July 31, 2008 10:57 AM
"The great thing about electric cars is that they'll probably never go obsolete"
I wouldn't count on that. We've made significant advances in both battery and power control technology in the last 10 years. There's other stuff being investigated in the big government labs now (like superconducting motors and generators) that might yield superior cars as well as wind turbines in the near future.
Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at July 31, 2008 11:00 AM
Sure, they'll improve mileage, efficiency. But you'll still be able to run this Tesla electric car 100 years from now (provided the car has been properly maintained).
Posted by: San FronziScheme at July 31, 2008 11:11 AM
There's a fellow I read about here in SF that has invented a small, vertical wind turbine that discretely sits on the roof. It's designed to be safe for birds and is quiet too.
This site has quite a variety of current designs:
The somewhat ridiculous Sunset house's ostentatious windmill is already dated. Good for Newsom for attempting to push this trend into the mainstream.
Posted by: Adam at July 31, 2008 11:32 AM
I'd love to see a time where the city starts integrating a small wind turbine into street lamp poles, etc. I read something awhile back about a Dutch company putting the finishing touches on something like that.
Posted by: Brutus at July 31, 2008 11:58 AM
Hey why don't we just make whole buildings into wind turbines. then they could rotate in circles always changing the view!
I bet it would cost almost nothing and no one one ever get sick...
Posted by: hot air at July 31, 2008 12:28 PM
noearch said: "I don't want to have to hear that in my back yard." Wow you fit the EXACT stereotypical description of a NIMBY: Not In My Back Yard!
Posted by: sf at August 3, 2008 2:23 PM