In Staten Island, Harnessing the Wind
STAND for a moment by the shores of Arthur Kill, on the southwestern coast of Staten Island, and look past the choppy waves at the fuel storage tanks of Sewaren, N.J.
Stroll toward the water’s edge, by rotting barges from the old Kreischer brick factory and through a 190-unit town-house complex being built on the factory’s former site in Charleston. Then glance back, up a hill, to the vacant house once owned by a son of the company’s founder, and listen to the faint whistling and hum overhead.
Are those the sounds of the ghosts that are rumored to haunt the old house?
No. It’s the Staten Island wind turbine.
That is not a proper name, but currently, the turbine, which is 13 feet across, does not need one. It is instantly recognizable because, as far as Con Edison knows, it is the only freestanding wind power generator in the city, and it is perched atop a 45-foot pole.
If the old Kreischer house is Staten Island’s past and the development, a community for people 55 and older called the Tides at Charleston, is the present, then maybe the turbine, which powers the complex’s streetlights and sewage system, is the future.
There has been talk on the island for years now about building a wind farm at the former Fresh Kills landfill to harness the area’s coastal breezes. But Ray Masucci, the developer of the Tides, seems to have beaten everyone to the punch.
There is, of course, a difference in scale between the gigantic turbines proposed for Fresh Kills and Mr. Masucci’s humbler machine, besides other differences in metering technology. The turbines at the landfill would be 400 feet tall, and there would be seven of them. Still, at the moment, the island has only one turbine, and it is mounted on a patch of red clay ground in Charleston, steps from the end of Mr. Masucci’s waterfront esplanade. Its existence was reported by The Staten Island Advance.
The developer would like to see turbines all over the island. He has reached an agreement with Southwest Power, the turbine’s manufacturer, to become a distributor of its machines. Now, besides being president of Raymond Homes, he runs R.P.M. Energy Solutions, which sells and installs turbines.
Margarett Jolly, a Con Edison spokeswoman, said the agency helped Mr. Masucci during his installation. The unobstructed shoreline site of the Tides would seem ideal for wind power, Ms. Jolly said, though, she cautioned, “That’s not what most of the city is like.”
Although wind turbines are rare in the city (a set of smaller models is mounted on a building in the South Bronx, Ms. Jolly said), Mr. Masucci contended they are less rare elsewhere.
“If you take a ride down to Atlantic City and you take the Atlantic City Expressway towards the beach, you’ll see there’s five turbines that have been up for a couple of years now,” he said on a recent afternoon. “If you travel to the West Coast, you see turbines all over.”
And he added, “There’s a good feeling that comes over you when you see one.”
On the west coast of Staten Island, meanwhile, the new turbine business has had some inquiries — from a shopping center, several homeowners and an Elks Club. Besides the appeal of environmentalism, another draw is that the turbine is fitted by Con Edison with a bidirectional meter so that when the turbine is generating more power than the systems can use, it returns that energy to the local grid, essentially selling power back to the utility.
As he spoke, Mr. Masucci eased a black G.M.C. Yukon 200 feet from the development’s sales office to the base of the turbine. His son, Joseph, and R.P.M.’s project manager, John Anzalone, were in the back seat with a laptop monitoring the turbine’s output. Gauges showed it was spinning at about 285 rotations per minute, generating a little over 2,000 watts.
The system cost $25,000, Ray Masucci said, and estimates show it could produce $3,000 a year in power.
The numbers, Mr. Anzalone says, will begin to make sense for people. He, for one, is already convinced. “I want to put one in my backyard,” he said.
By Jake Mooney