Ammiano spins rooftop wind turbine idea in S.F.

A San Francisco supervisor wants to give residents of Bernal Heights the opportunity to harness wind for energy by allowing wind turbines on rooftops to rise beyond existing area height limits.

The relatively new and untried practice of erecting wind turbines on rooftops to generate electricity may be catching on in San Francisco.

The Bernal Heights neighborhood has strict zoning controls, meant to preserve the area’s character, and limits heights to 30 feet. Supervisor Tom Ammiano has introduced legislation that would allow wind turbines to exceed the height limit, enabling the structures to extend 10 feet above the height limit.

Ammiano introduced the legislation after discussions with Bernal Heights resident Todd Pelman, founder of Blue Green Pacific, a company working toward developing better rooftop wind turbine technology, as well as with members of San Francisco’s planning and environment departments. Bernal Heights happens to be one of the best locations in San Francisco for rooftop wind turbines because of its windy environment, Pelman said.

Pelman has the distinction of securing the first residential wind turbine permit, which meets the current height limit. By exempting wind turbines from the area’s existing height limits, they would work better and allow Bernal Heights residents to take advantage of the technology, he said. Pelman has a goal of designing a wind turbine system that could generate 10 percent of a household’s energy needs.

Pelman’s wind turbine efforts, which include a plan to launch a rooftop wind turbine pilot program in locations throughout the Bay Area, have been welcomed by San Francisco residents.
“We want to take advantage of the windy city,” Ammiano said. “The initiative will help facilitate San Francisco’s alternative energy policy goals on a neighborhood level.”

Johanna Partin, renewable energy manager with the Department of the Environment, said, “There aren’t a lot of cities in the U.S. that have rooftop-scale systems.” The department is looking at Pelman’s work “to see how the systems can work in San Francisco,” she said.

“What is exciting about it is it would help a lot of people offset a certain percentage of their electricity usage from fossil fuels,” which would reduce carbon emissions, Partin said.
Wind turbines seem to be growing in popularity in San Francisco. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s new building proposed for 525 Golden Gate Ave. includes a number of rooftop wind turbines. A permit application is pending for a wind turbine on the ground at the remodeled La Casa Verde on 25th and Alabama, where the spinning blade reaches 50 feet.

Ammiano’s legislation requires a hearing before the Planning Commission as well as approval by the full Board of Supervisors. Hearing dates have not yet been set.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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