New York City Mayor Quickly Retracts Impractical Windmills-on-Bridges Plan

Published November 1, 2008

A day after attracting extensive positive press coverage and fanfare for announcing plans to place windmills atop bridges and buildings throughout the nation’s largest city, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R) conceded the plan is unrealistic.

Speaking at the National Clean Energy Summit on August 18, Bloomberg pledged his wind power plan would “make New York the number one city in the nation” in production of alternative power. He asked businesses to submit proposals within a month.

“The idea of renewable power in and around New York City is very realistic,” Rohit Aggarwala, director of the city’s office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, told The New York Times for an August 20 story.

Doubts Arose Quickly

The plan seemed much less realistic, however, after scientists and economists weighed in.

“I have absolutely no idea whether that makes any sense from a scientific, from a practical point of view,” Bloomberg conceded the next day. “I can seriously imagine offshore, but in terms of actually urban turbines in Manhattan, we are a ways off from that.”

In the real world, even offshore wind power has proven too expensive for New York. The Long Island Power Authority had developed plans to place 40 turbines in a particularly conducive area off the South Shore near Robert Moses State Park, but it pulled the plug on the plans because of extremely high cost projections.

Official Duped

Not waiting for the scientists and economists to weigh in, Paul Feiner, a town supervisor in Greenburgh, New York, lavished praise on Bloomberg’s discredited proposal.

“Hats off to Mayor Bloomberg for his bold and innovative suggestion to place windmills on bridges and buildings in New York City,” Feiner wrote in a letter to the New York Sun.

In a bit of unintended irony, Feiner added, “The mayor is light years ahead of his time.”

Mayor’s Reversal Praised

“It is great that the mayor has backed off the idea of putting windmills on skyscrapers and bridges. It is good to hear that folks in leadership positions can listen to science and economics. The original idea garnered well-deserved scorn and giggles,” said Tom Tanton, a senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute.

“Now if other leaders will begin to listen to the true science and economics of wind energy, maybe there will be less of a mad rush to put windmills in every rural hamlet as well,” Tanton added.

“Wind energy is no more economical in rural areas than in downtown New York, and the logistics of integration are no less complex,” Tanton said. “They simply are not economically viable and do not provide power when needed for our homes or factories.”

Krystle Russin ([email protected]) writes from Texas.