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Yonkers Co-op Betting on the Other Renewable Energy Source: Wind

Bill Morris in Bricks & Bucks on July 13, 2022

Yonkers, Westchester County

Wind energy, Climate Mobilization Act, building carbon emissions, co-op board.

Rendering of WindWalls in place (left) and a close-up view of the turbines.

July 13, 2022

After abandoning the old Band-Aid approach and adopting a do-it-once philosophy on capital projects, the board at the Kimberley Gardens co-op in Yonkers began debating how it could put its new state-of-the-art roofs to use.

“We asked ourselves how we could continue to make the buildings go green,” says board president Robert DiMartini. “We had insulated the heating pipes, put LED lights in the hallways and elevators, installed heat sensors in the apartments. We talked about installing solar panels on the rebuilt roofs, but with the help of our property manager, we realized our location is more conducive to wind power than solar power.”

And so the property manager, Valona Gjeka of Charles H. Greenthal, and the board set about assembling a team that produced a cutting-edge plan. Instead of covering the property’s three roofs with solar panels, it would use just 400 square feet on the roof of one of the six-story buildings to install a 12-feet-tall, 10-feet-wide array of wind turbines, called a WindWall, manufactured by American Wind in Hunstville, Ala. The wall of 108 turbines rotates as the wind shifts, maximizing energy production.

“The region has an average wind speed of 10 m.p.h., so it’s quite windy,” says Ted Rodormer of Net Zero Solutions, the distributor of American Wind products, noting that the WindWall generates electricity when the wind speed is as low as 1.5 m.p.h.. “The building is up on a hill, above the tree line,” he adds. “The object of the WindWall is to not go big. The turbines have no friction so they turn at lower wind speeds, which gets rid of dangerous blades and noise and vibration, and also it doesn’t harm birds.”

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Adds Chris Schiller, president of the consultancy Resolution Energy, “The technology itself is more efficient than solar, and the return on investment is much quicker.”

Yonkers is in Westchester County, which has not mandated that buildings cut their carbon emissions to specified levels. But Schiller is working with numerous co-op and condo boards in New York City, where the Climate Mobilization Act will begin imposing stiff fines in 2024 on buildings that fail to meet prescribed carbon-emission caps. “For a lot of buildings,” Schiller says, “the WindWall offers tremendous value. For some buildings, it will be the only way for them to comply with the Climate Mobilization Act.” 

While not under such an economic gun, the Yonkers co-op is moving ahead with installing a WindWall array that will include three backup batteries in the event of a blackout or a severe drop in wind speeds. The cost for hardware and installation will be between $650,000 and $900,000. With annual energy savings between $75,000 and $125,000, the co-op expects to recoup its investment in five years. The co-op will also get a one-time federal tax credit equal to 26% of the installation cost. The bulk of the project’s upfront cost will come from the co-op’s reserve fund, and a portion will be drawn from an assessment that paid for repairs to the roofs and facades. The electricity generated by the wind turbines will help power the buildings’ common areas.

As it prepares to embark on its most ambitious capital project, the co-op board is feeling a mix of emotions. “When you’re on the edge of something new, there’s always anxiety — it’s exciting, but also nerve-racking,” says DiMartini, the board president. “But I think we’re headed in a good direction.”

PRINCIPAL PLAYERS — PROPERTY MANAGER: Charles H. Greenthal. CONSULTANT: Resolution Energy. DISTRIBUTOR: Net Zero Solutions. CONTRACTOR: B&G Mechanical. MANUFACTURER: American Wind.

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