Solar, Wind and Tidal Energy to Power Randall's Island

By Jill Colvin on March 26, 2012 11:16am 

A conceptual rendering of the solar kiosk, which will serve as an information center for visitors.
A conceptual rendering of the solar kiosk, which will serve as an information center for visitors.
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Preliminary conceptual designs by Natural Currents Energy Services, LLC.

MANHATTAN — Randall’s Island’s baseball diamonds could soon be powered by the sun, wind and waves as the city moves forward with a long-awaited hybrid energy plant.

A $1 million contract to build the city's “first hybrid renewable energy installation” that will combine solar, wind and tidal energy in a unique demonstration-scale innovation center was quietly announced last week.

“We are very eager to get rolling on it," said Roger Bason, president of Natural Currents Energy Services, the company that is behind the effort to build the center on Randall's Island.

"It’s been in the planning stages for many years.”

Bason said the project will include three components.

The first, set to be completed by Sept. 2012, will be a solar kiosk which will operate as a marine research center and information center for visitors to the island..

In addition to powering its own operation, the kiosk's roof-mounted solar panels are intended to produce enough power to charge a handful of electric vehicles for more than 700,000 yearly visitors to see in action, he said.

Next, the team will install a wind turbine underneath the Robert F. Kennedy (formerly Triborough) Bridge. The turbine, which will be within view of both Gracie Mansion on the Upper East Side and sections of Astoria, Queens, is slated for completion by April 2013, he said.

Finally, the team will add a tidal turbine to harness the power of the movement of the East River's strong tides. The turbine will be housed in a 30-by-60-foot barge, which will float about 50 meters offshore, he said.

The wind and tidal installations are expected to produce about 200 kW of energy — enough to power about 100 homes. On the island, the energy will likely be used to power lights and facilities like ball fields, Bason said.

In addition to showing off renewable energy to visitors, the project is also intended to produce research about how different green energy sources can work together.

“They work in sequence," he explained. "The tide turns on a certain pattern, the wind is very intermittent, the sun runs on a schedule.... All of this is cutting edge."

View from atop the Queens tower of the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge's Queens suspension span, looking down on Wards end of Randall's Island.
View from atop the Queens tower of the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge's Queens suspension span, looking down on Wards end of Randall's Island.
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MTA/Patrick Cashin

The project, which is being partially funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and the city's Parks Department, was originally approved under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, but has been delayed for years

“Now it looks like the stars are all lining up," Bason said of the project, which he hopes can be replicated here and in other cities.

“Hopefully, it’s a model that can be replicated throughout the world for seeing how these systems work together and get the public excited," he said.

The city also recently began moving forward with plans to install a large solar and wind energy facility on 75 acres of land at the former Fresh Kills landfill in Staten Island that could generate enough electricity to power as many as 6,000 homes.

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