Thar she blows! City wants windmills in Red Hook

Thar she blows! City wants windmills in Red Hook
Photo by Tom Callan

What’s old is new again in Red Hook, as the borough’s first modern windmill is nearing construction, paving the way for more of these ancient — and environmentally friendly — power plants.

The waterfront neighborhood will be the testing ground for a city-financed plan to build a wind turbine atop an unused 90-foot water tower at Van Dyke Street.

If successful, energy harnessed from the turbine could power electric cars or illuminate the waterfront near Fairway market.

And what better place than Red Hook, a peninsula experts said is the perfect Petri dish for the creation of a “New Holland,” a country known for its iconic windmills.

The neighborhood is near the water and features few tall buildings, so wind can blow unobstructed.

The energy produced by the turbine — roughly 4,500 kilowatt hours per year — would be enough to power about one home, estimated Cullen Kasunic, the vice president of Wind Products, the Manhattan-based outfit that will manufacture the turbine and the equipment.

The $12,500 test is still being finalized, cautioned Economic Development Corporation spokeswoman Vivian Liao, who said the goal is to see if such small turbines create enough energy to make them worthwhile.

The turbine might be new to Red Hook, but the machines have been around for centuries.

The first practical, vertical axis windmills date back to the ninth century, in eastern Persia. The first instance of wind being used to power a machine dates back to the first century in Greece.

Brooklyn’s wind turbine will follow the same mechanical principles: the blades of the turbine slow the wind down, creating lift, a force created by a pressure differential in the air. Lift — the same force that enables an airplane to fly — turns the blades, which are connected to a drive shaft inside the device. The shaft is connected to an electric motor at the base of the device, and when the shaft turns, the motor produces electricity, he said.

Who knows if it will work? Then again, who cares, said Debra Salomon, a project developer at New York City College of Technology.

“If everyone is afraid [to do something that could fail], then renewable energy will never happen,” she said.

But don’t get out your tool kit and windmill blades just yet. For now, the only way to legally construct a turbine is to be part of the pilot program. But this one small step for Red Hook may be a giant leap for the city.

“This is just to tickle the imagination of people to the possibilities of what can be,” said property owner Greg O’Connell, who donated the water tower.