There is a new fixture at the historic Cliff House: a 31-foot-tall wind turbine meant to capture enough ocean wind to sustain the nearby gift shop.
The three-year pilot project will determine if enough energy is created to make the building self-sustaining — a longtime goal of the National Park Service, which owns the restaurant.
“We’ve had a long-standing commitment to environmental issues and sustainability,” said Ralph Burgin, general manager of the Cliff House. “It will generate power for our facilities, but we are also part of the parks service, so this will serve as an educational piece as well.”
The turbine was installed this week on an observation deck, and it uses disc-shaped blades to catch the wind, which is different than the more commonly seen windmill type with rapid moving blades. The design lessens interference with wildlife.
The turbine is not the only project the Park Service has embarked on in the past several years aimed at reducing the overall carbon footprint of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Those projects include renewable energy efforts in Marin, the opening of the LEED Platinum-certified Crissy Field Center and the installation of solar panels on Alcatraz.
The solar panels on Alcatraz went live five months ago, according to GGNRA spokeswoman Alexandra Picavet. The move will make the island self-sustaining, which could save the Park Service more than $30,000 annually.
“It’s our largest reduction in carbon output for the GGNRA and for the National Park Service in the Bay Area,” Picavet said. “Alcatraz has been using two-diesel generators since forever. By being able to turn them off about 60 percent of the day and use solar power, that’s great.”
The transportation to and from the island is also going green. Hornblower Cruises, which operates the ferries to Alcatraz, just welcomed its third hybrid ferry back to the fleet. The hybrid, which cost about $4 million to retrofit, uses solar and wind power to transport 1.4 million visitors to the former penitentiary each year.
A federal effort mandates that any federal facility use sustainable energy when possible, according to Picavet.
“Everyone can do their part,” Picavet said.