RENEWABLE ENERGY:

San Francisco plan promotes urban wind power

SAN FRANCISCO -- Mayor Gavin Newsom (D) unveiled plans yesterday for installing turbines on rooftops around the city, with a goal of commercializing small-scale wind power and bringing down the cost of renewable electricity.

The plans envision turbines on public and private buildings, as well as at Ocean Beach and Treasure Island. Newsom said demonstration turbines could be placed on the W Hotel, outside City Hall and on a new Public Utilities Commission building.

"We want to challenge the perception that wind is a rural or suburban phenomenon and not an urban resource," Newsom said. Small-scale wind power could contribute significantly to the city's goal of generating 50 megawatts of electricity from renewables by 2030, he said.

The plan offers 29 recommendations for promoting turbines, including easing permitting costs and shortening approval times for turbine manufacturers and producing maps of wind potential highlighting neighborhoods and individual buildings.

"The key issues are siting, installation cost, permitting and wildlife," said Todd Pelman, CEO of turbine manufacturer Blue Green Pacific.

About 40 turbine manufacturers have been certified by the International Electrotechnical Commission, which certifies their models' qualifications for state rebates. The American Wind Energy Association and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council are working on a joint certification process that will start accepting applications later this fall for turbines under 65 kilowatts.

Consumers need more third-party evaluations to compare models, the report says. It recommends that manufacturers create information labels similar to the federal Energy Star program for appliances and adhere to the pending industry standards to ease certification.

Pelman said he was heartened by city officials' approach to permitting. "Even if we come up against any boundaries or barriers, everyone's on board to work through it," he said. Blue Green Pacific's 150-pound rooftop turbine, which generates a maximum of half a kilowatt, is already at three sites here, including the San Francisco Zoo.

The report recommends refunding manufacturers' permitting costs and studying small-scale turbines' effect on birds and bats, for which little information exists.

Newsom cautioned that it is too early to discuss financial incentives for wind projects on the municipal level, but he said homeowners might be able to pay for their turbines through their property tax bills, a financing method first introduced by the city of Berkeley for solar installations.

Click here to read the plan.

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