Tapping the Tappan Zee for Wind

The Tappan Zee Bridge, which bears far more traffic than it was designed for and is due to be replaced.
Cassi Alexander for The New York TimesThe Tappan Zee Bridge, which bears far more traffic than it was designed for and is due to be replaced.

Replacing the Tappan Zee Bridge, which carries the New York State Thruway across the Hudson River between Westchester and Rockland Counties, is expected to be one of the biggest infrastructure projects in the New York region in coming years. Some experts have suggested including some green features, like tracks for commuter trains or a bus rapid transit lane.

Paul Feiner, the town supervisor in Greenburgh in Westchester County, also has a green idea: wind turbines.

Mr. Feiner says he wants a bridge that would “generate excitement.” Wind turbines would inspire the thousands of people who use it daily to conserve energy or embrace renewable energy, he suggests. It could even be a tourist destination.

The idea of replacing the bridge has been around for years, but the prospects for getting it done improved significantly last month when President Obama designated it, along with a handful of other projects nationwide, for “fast track” environmental approval.

In theory, that could allow work to start in about a year. Mr. Obama was less concerned with the bridge’s perennial traffic jams, with about 45 million vehicles using it last year, than with the thousands of jobs that the construction project would create.

Adding wind turbines would run counter to the approach supported by some New York State officials, who want to strip the proposal down to the bare bones to minimize costs in this fiscally dicey period, forgoing the addition of train tracks, for example, but leaving open the possibility of adding them later.

Asked about the wind turbine idea, a spokesman for Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Matt Wing, simply replied, “We are in the process of taking comments and feedback from the public on the Tappan Zee Bridge project and we will be considering them as they are submitted.”

They might get a large number of comments from an unexpected quarter: Mr. Feiner recently sent a letter to the heads of science departments at high schools and middle schools around the county and to some colleges as well, asking them to have their students evaluate the idea.

He included a photo of a somewhat fanciful design for a viaduct in Italy that incorporates wind machines.

Is it practical?

Probably not, given that big wind machines are generally planted on ridge lines around the United States, not bridges. Their blades accumulate ice in cold weather and tend to shed the ice in great showers, making them unsafe to approach (or drive under) during many hours of the year.

Still, there is a booming business in small wind, meaning machines that generate a few kilowatts – enough, say, to run a house or several houses. The American Wind Energy Association said that sales of such small machines jumped 53 percent in 2010, with about 800 units sold.

Asked about such a project’s practicality, 3TIER, a company that evaluates potential wind sites around the country for their suitability, suggested that the wind might be adequate, although it has no detailed information on the Tappan Zee.

A key factor is how high the wind machine is placed, given that winds 100 or 200 feet above the surface are usually far stronger than those on the ground.

The New York Times

http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/08/tapping-the-tappan-zee-for-wind/?ref=windpower

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