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Windmills planned for New Orleans' riverfront park

Along with the flower beds, trees and footpaths that are fundamental to any public park, the designs for a renovated New Orleans riverfront have some unexpected flourishes. A field of modern windmills is slated for the east bank of the Mississippi River ...

Along with the flower beds, trees and footpaths that are fundamental to any public park, the designs for a renovated New Orleans riverfront have some unexpected flourishes.

A field of modern windmills is slated for the east bank of the Mississippi River, their thin, white blades designed to generate electricity for a planned waterfront park. Six are planned for the first phase of Reinventing the Crescent, the city-led riverfront redevelopment that is supposed to begin sometime this year.

"It is a central thrust of this project to generate as much electricity as possible from renewable sources," said Sean Cummings, chief executive of the New Orleans Building Corporation, the city agency in charge of Reinventing the Crescent.

The windmills also add to the modern aesthetic Cummings hopes to capture with the project, which will ultimately transform 6 miles of waterfront between Jackson Avenue and the Industrial Canal.

"It's an architectural element," Cummings said, describing the windmills as landmarks that help "modulate a person's progress, whether by foot or on a bike, on skates or passing in a boat along this long linear stretch."

In both form and function, the... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Along with the flower beds, trees and footpaths that are fundamental to any public park, the designs for a renovated New Orleans riverfront have some unexpected flourishes.

A field of modern windmills is slated for the east bank of the Mississippi River, their thin, white blades designed to generate electricity for a planned waterfront park. Six are planned for the first phase of Reinventing the Crescent, the city-led riverfront redevelopment that is supposed to begin sometime this year.

"It is a central thrust of this project to generate as much electricity as possible from renewable sources," said Sean Cummings, chief executive of the New Orleans Building Corporation, the city agency in charge of Reinventing the Crescent.

The windmills also add to the modern aesthetic Cummings hopes to capture with the project, which will ultimately transform 6 miles of waterfront between Jackson Avenue and the Industrial Canal.

"It's an architectural element," Cummings said, describing the windmills as landmarks that help "modulate a person's progress, whether by foot or on a bike, on skates or passing in a boat along this long linear stretch."

In both form and function, the windmills are perhaps the starkest example of the new life envisioned for the river by Reinventing the Crescent. Ramshackle wharves, once used for cargo, will be replaced by sprawling greenery, pavilions and piers.

The $30 million budget for the first phase of the project, which will remake the 1.5-mile area between Esplanade Avenue and Mazant Street, should have enough money for about half a dozen windmills, said Randy Hutchison, who is managing the project for the New Orleans architectural firm Eskew+Dumez+Ripple.

Hutchison's firm and several others that make up the design team are finishingconceptual plans for the project's first phase. Those documents will be used to craft development designs with details about how to execute the project, including installing the windmills.

They may sound exotic, but the windmills are actually relatively inexpensive, "off-the-shelf" devices that are easy to tie in to local power grids, according to Hutchison. The design team has considered three different models from Quiet Revolution, Bluenergy and GE Power.

"It would be similar to installing a lamp post, although power would be going in the opposite direction," he said.

Indeed, wind power has become as common as a lamp post in some parts of the country: Rock Port, Mo., recently became the first town in the nation to become fully powered by wind energy.

But the technology is still a novelty in Louisiana. The state's topography does not lend itself to land-based wind power, although offshore turbines are widely thought to have greater potential, said John Atkeison, director of climate and clean energy at the Alliance for Affordable Energy.

Still, several private owners have installed windmills around the state to power their homes and businesses. Atkeison believes that small-scale wind turbines can work depending on their location and the amount of power they need to generate.

"Along the river seems appropriate," he said. "One of the good things about being sited near a river is the fact that you have an unobstructed access to wind."

Although the building corporation has not performed a formal study, meters installed in the area show sufficient wind speeds to support the stretch of the river earmarked for Reinventing the Crescent.

"The data indicates that the prevailing winds there are in the 9-to-11-mile per hour range," Cummings said.

The park would not demand much energy, as the windmills would only have to fuel standard lighting and power outlets. Unlike industrial-scale turbines, which can be as tall as 500 feet, the windmills on the riverfront would be closer to 20 feet.

To Cummings, the windmills' practical application is just as important as the statement they will make about the importance of developing alternative fuel sources. The devices would also come at a poignant moment in American history, with President Barack Obama promoting green energy as a central part of his domestic agenda.

"It's a forward-looking project, and part of the aspiration is to highlight renewable energy," Cummings said.

Wind power is just one source of green energy that will be available at the new riverfront.. Solar panels are also on the books for the first phase, with photovoltaic cells to be installed on a shed at the foot of Mandeville Street, now a burned-out wharf. The panels will power the wharf site, which will be converted into a venue for outdoor concerts and other gatherings.

Cummings also hopes to enlist Free Flow Power, a Massachusetts company that opened an office in New Orleans last week, to install the first of its electricity-generating water turbines in the river near the park. Free Flow is in the early stages of creating technology that would use the Mississippi River's energy to provide commercial-scale electrical power.

The turbines in New Orleans would not likely power the park, but instead would be used as a test for a larger project that could eventually install 150,000 turbines in the river. The turbines would be invisible from ground level, but Cummings said he would like to have a place in the park dedicated to educating pedestrians about hydropower.

A sample turbine, which at 7 feet in diameter is about the size of jet engine, might be installed in the park.

"New Orleans has the potential to be at the forefront of this," said Jon Guidroz, director of project development for Free Flow. "This would be a fantastic fit for a demonstration project."

Reinventing the Crescent is a kind of demonstration project for Cummings, who wants to change the way people think about the Mississippi.

"The river offers the most compelling source of renewable energy," he said.


Source: http://www.nola.com/busines...

JAN 24 2009
http://www.windaction.org/posts/18760-windmills-planned-for-new-orleans-riverfront-park
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