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Chelsea Piers Leads NYC in Wind Power

These windmills in Fenner, New York provide power to facilities in NYC

By Valerie Lapinski, Colin Orcutt, Maureen Sullivan, Nicole Turso, and Brian Winkowski

New York: The New Windy City?

City officials on Thursday honored Chelsea Piers, the country’s biggest sports and entertainment complex, for converting to 100% wind power. Chelsea Piers made the switch in October, making it the biggest business in NYC to use wind energy – equal to taking 2800 cars off of the road, or offsetting the generation of 13,600 tons of green house gas emissions.

But although Chelsea Piers is perched on the breezy west side of the city, the windmill in front of the building is merely decorative. Instead of spending money in attempt to harness wind itself, the facility buys wind credits, which act as a pre-order on wind power being generated somewhere else.

“This is energy that has no supply line around the world, it’s generated here at home. It has no emissions, no climate change impact, and once the investment is made it has no fuel costs,” said Jorge J. Lopez, CEO of ConEdison Solutions at Thursday’s event.

NYC Honors Chelsea Piers for Wind Power

Do-It-Yourself Wind Power

Some people don’t want to wait through this process–from wind farm to energy supplier–to get their energy, but still want to harness the power of the wind.

Energy2Green touts the idea that wind and solar power systems can be built right at home.

Gotwind.org also has a step-by-step guide on how to build your own wind turbine.

It turns out the city isn’t opposed to a little DIY engineering – last summer Mayor Michael Bloomberg voiced support of windpower on skyscrapers, a sentiment consistent with his 25-year sustainability initiative, PlaNYC.

This recent piece in the New York Times profiles several buildings in the city that operate at least partially on windpower from installed turbines.

How Wind Credit Works

Wind power is the second most successful renewable source of energy after hydroelectric, or water-fueled turbines that create energy.

Companies like Chelsea Piers buy wind power credits from energy suppliers, including ConEdison Solutions, Accent Energy and Energetix, who buy power from wind farms located throughout the United States. Since some days are windier than others, it’s the suppliers’ job to make sure that their clients are getting the amount of power they’re paying for.

Jorge J. Lopez, CEO of ConEdison Solutions, explains wind credit:

These farms send wind-generated power to the electricity grid that is then verified by an independent audit system and directed to homes and businesses. Customers can choose whether they will receive wind power, standard power, or a combination of the two. Here’s a handy graphic from the BBC that illustrates how wind energy gets to the power grid.

Wind power, however, does come at a premium cost—about two and a half more cents per kilowatt. In addition, customers can choose which wind they will receive—either nationally produced or regional, though regionally produced wind power is more expensive.

As for Chelsea Piers, facility directors think the environmental benefit is worth the extra investment.

“We were surprised to learn that the incremental cost of purchasing 100 percent green power was actually quite small,” Chairman Roland W. Betts said in a press statment. “We believe it will pay for itself in a few years.”

Posted in Business, Earth Day, Featured, Manhattan, Multimedia

Opening a Bar During Recession

By Damiano Beltrami, Aisha Al-Muslim, Anastasia Economides

Sometimes there are advantages to opening a business during an economic downturn. Holiday Haber, owner of P&G Café, a bar that opened two weeks ago at Columbus Ave and 78th Street, says there’s not as much red tape now. At a time when many business are closing or scaling back, she says everybody seems to be pulling for her to succeed and willing to help her get started.

“We just had to buy a chiller for beer lines and the gentleman is driving it himself from Pennsylvania”, Haber said. “And we’re getting it at about a third of its value.”

Bars and restaurant may not be recession-proof, but people don’t stop eating and drinking when times are bad. One big advantage during a downturn is that everything is cheaper. People, raw materials, office space. And suppliers, desperately looking for jobs, turn up on time and offer reasonable returns by providing discounts or special treatments.

“Some landlords are renegotiating their leases,” said Andrew Rigie, Director of Operations of the New York State Restaurant Association. “Restaurant [and bar] owners have more empty spaces to choose from.”

Some economists like Harvard Business School’s Tom Nicholas and Mike Southon, Financial Times columnist and entrepreneur mentor, recently suggested that a recession can be a good time to start a business.

During the last recession (1991-92) roughly 25% of downsized managers over 40 started their own company, according to the U.S. House Committee on Small Business, and the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas reports that in the first six months of 2002, 11.4% of jobless managers and executives started their own businesses.

“Because small firms and self employed individuals are more nimble than large corporations and can capitalize on market opportunities during economic downturns, it’s not surprising to see self employment spike during recessions,” said Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez, the Chairwoman of the House Committee on Small Business.  “It’s a testament to the American entrepreneurial spirit.”

Former managers willing to get start-ups running and small entrepreneurs like Haber share advantages as well as the same big disadvantage in starting a business these days: the lack of credit.

“In these tough economic times investments are a problem,” said Cliff Schorer, a professor at the Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center at Columbia Business School.

Haber used family savings and could count on a number of friends to help move furniture, paint walls and install electrical wiring. But she feels that the money is never enough.

“The costs are always far beyond what planned,” she said.

A BAR STOOL FOR A BARGAIN

At a time when bars and restaurants are closing down and sell their furniture to second hand stores, the ones who want to open a business can pick and choose.

The heaven for third and fourth hand stools and tables is the Bowery, an area dotted with dozens of these shops. They are facing hard times, but are a boon for entrepreneurs.

Posted in Business, Featured, Multimedia