Crissy Field to Harness the Wind

The turbines will also serve as an educational lab.

Anyone who frequents San Francisco’s Crissy Field, is probably aware it can be a real windbag. Its blustery conditions make it one of the premier locations in the nation for the sport of sailboarding.

“It’s not the best place for a picnic,” said Laura Castellini, sustainability director for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. “But for generating wind power it’s really good.”

This week the National Park Service went about harnessing that wind. It installed three of what will eventually be an array of five wind turbines at the new Crissy Field Center. The new turbines will help supply power to the center, as well as a new electric vehicle charging station.

The 30-foot turbines will corral the area’s western winds that blow at an average of 10 mph. They’re far different than the giant turbines on Altamont pass that have been blamed for hundreds of bird deaths. The National Park Service said the new vertical turbines at Crissy Field are bird safe.

“They’re bird friendly, which is really important in wind generation” said Jon Jarvis, director of the National Park Service.

Jarvis said the GGNRA intentionally chose to install the turbines directly in front of the entrance to the center, a 7500 square foot urban environmental education center at the eastern end of the beach. Jarvis said the turbines will not only save the park service money, they’ll also set an example.

“By putting them right here in front means we’re demonstrating to the American public our stewardship of limited resources,” Jarvis said.  

The turbines will also serve as an educational lab. Teams of students from nearby Galileo High School will visit the site once a week to monitor the turbines energy production. Their findings will be used in a research study by the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute.

“We’re basically looking to see if these are actually efficient,” said student Lizzy Graham of Galileo High. “First of all if they’re safe, and if we can get them at our school.”

The turbines are part of Jarvis’ push to make the nation’s parks more sustainable by 2016. The GGNRA is currently installing a large solar array on a roof of Alcatraz that will reduce the island’s use of diesel fuel by 60 percent.

“All aspects of our operations, our facilities, our functions will be designed around sustainability,” said Jarvis.

On Wednesday, a crowd looked-on as a construction crew yanked one of the turbines into place. It was probably one of the only places, where being called a windbag wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

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