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micro-wind-turbineSoon, wind turbines could grace San Franciscan landmarks from Treasure Island to Ocean Beach — or at least they should, according to a new report released today by the City’s urban wind power task force, a group commissioned by mayor Gavin Newsom and state assemblyman Tom Ammiano to envision the renewable future.

Anyone who has visited San Francisco (or attended a 49ers game at blustery Candlestick Park) knows that the City is ideally situated to generate power from wind. Pair this fact with its promise to be a carbon-neutral city by 2030, and it looks like installing turbines will be the best bet. The question now is whether reaching that goal is at all feasible — and the answer depends largely on wind power’s ability to reach cost levels competitive with the coal-generated electricity already distributed by Pacific Gas and Electric.

For the most part, wind turbines have been installed in vast empty areas of land — the desert, the countryside, the rolling unpopulated hills of central California. But that’s starting to change. Turbines may become regular urban fixtures in the next several years. Boston has already built a flock of them near its Logan Airport, and even New York’s mayor Michael Bloomberg has mentioned the possibility of fixing them on top of skyscrapers. It only makes sense for San Francisco — one of the most ambitious cities when it comes to renewable energy adoption — to lead the charge.

The task force issuing today’s report — a 44-member body including City business leaders, environmentalists and representatives from the wind power industry — says the next step will be to chart out the part of San Francisco with ideal conditions for turbines. City government should also consider policy changes to encourage wind companies to set down roots there, creating hundreds if not thousands of green jobs, the group recommends. These measures could include laxer permitting, tax and building codes and a revision of zoning regulations that include height and land use restrictions.

Mayor Newsom, who has taken a strong stance on green business and alternative energy development as he ramps up his campaign for California governor, says he will be adopting and moving fast on many of the proposals contained in the report. In addition to pursuing legislative action, he will also support the construction of more small pilot wind projects around the City. Whether or not this will actually happen given the weak state of the economy and the capital intensive nature of wind turbine construction is another matter.

Here’s a video of the first urban turbine installed in the U.S., located in the Mission District of San Francisco:


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