Wind Turbines Paint A New York Brownfield Green

Few people would think that a cold, windy, polluted beach in upstate New York was prime real estate, but to wind energy developers it was just the spot they were looking for. Harnessing the blustery winds coming off the Great Lakes, Boston-based First Wind just added another 15 megawatts (MW) to its Steel Winds project. Now blowing strong at a capacity of 35 MW, the installation has enough oomph to power an estimated 9,000 New York homes.

While the winds coming off of Lake Erie may be powerful, or strong as steel if you will, that is not in fact where the project name originated. The Steel Winds Project sits on 30 acres of the old Bethlehem Steel mill site which sat as a brownfield following the mill’s closure in the early 1980s.

Steel Winds II Turbine

image via First Wind

Thanks to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation Brownfield Cleanup, the land was eventually reinvented in June 2007 with the first phase of the Steel Winds project—generating 20 MW of energy and revenue for the surrounding communities.

This second phase added six additional 2.5 MW wind turbines, facilitated by general contractor Tennessee Valley Infrastructure Group. According to First Wind, the Steel Winds expansion generated 100 jobs and will add an additional $190,000 in tax revenue to the towns of Hamburg and Lackawanna.

Beyond the tangible revenue, the 35 MW of clean energy will essentially save 115,000 barrels of oil and 23,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually when compared to a traditional fossil fuel facility in New York.

While a small piece of the puzzle, the installation puts the state just a little closer to its goal of 30 percent renewable energy sources by 2015.

“The Steel Winds project demonstrates that business can be innovative and successful when given the opportunity,” Hamburg Town Supervisor Steven Walters said in a statement. “To return a long vacant brownfield back into a productive piece of property is something everyone should be excited about.”

Angeli Duffin is a Midwest transplant currently living in San Francisco, CA. Kicking off her career doing product design and development with Fair Trade artisans around the world, she then moved on to the editorial side, writing for eBay’s Green Team blog and working as a marketing consultant for social and environmentally minded companies