The next stiff breeze that blows through windswept Civic Center might just be responsible for powering a lightbulb.
A battery of windmills called "vertical axis wind turbines" are sprouting up around city hall as part of a demonstration project. The spinning towers certainly do look cool, but whether they actually accomplish anything remains to be seen. It's also unclear how long the turbines will remain in place before being dismantled.
The turbines have street lights attached, and the idea is that gusts of wind will keep the lights shining at night. A solar panel on the pole will augment the energy banks when the weather is still. The batteries can store up to a week's worth of power.
The devices offset the equivalent of 1,516 pounds of carbon dioxide. That's equivalent to flying halfway across the country, powering a TV for a year, riding a bike instead of a car to work for a year, or running a hot tub for 6 months.
Although the wind turbines are a neat gimmick that probably won't see widespread adoption, the city is working hard to make other street lights a bit more Earth-friendly. A program to replace lights around the city with LEDs will kick-off in 2011, switching out 18,500 sodium lamps with LEDs. They're expected to save about a million dollars annually and reduce the city's energy consumption by the equivalent of 950 homes.
"This new hybrid streetlight pilot project is another step towards achieving our vision of a model, sustainable public square that harnesses the power of the wind and sun to deliver an essential government service," Gavin Newsom said.