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Environment & Energy

New Vertical Wind Turbine Powering Phipps

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens has installed a renewable power source, further helping the effort of the Living Building Challenge, and achieving a new zero-energy goal. The Gale 10 vertical axis wind turbine, made by Tangarie, is expected to harness more than 10,000 kWh annually from the wind.

The living building challenge is an attempt to create a building that generates all its own energy from on-site renewable resources, including solar, and now wind. The vertical turbine differs from the massive horizontal "windmill" type models, often seen in open spaces. That model presented a challenge for an urban setting which gets inconsistent wind traffic.

"We looked at the horizontal, but they have to be much higher and, for us in an urban setting, it really didn't make sense. We didn't want to take away from the natural landscape of the park or the city. So we went down the path of looking at the vertical wind turbine," said Jason Wirick, director of facilities and sustainability at Phipps.

The vertical turbine generates 50 percent more electricity than traditional propeller models, is much quieter and compact and is safe for birds and bats.

The turbine is expected to harness more than 10,000 kWh annually. That power will be used to meet the HVAC power requirements of the Tropical Forest Conservator, and also work along with a solar array and geothermal wells to achieve net-zero energy status.

"These renewable technologies exist. We might as well use them. They're clean, and we're not contributing to carbon emissions. Part of our mission is to advance sustainability, so we're really trying to walk the walk and utilize these renewable sources that are available to us," said Wirick.

In a press release, Phipps states that by making the leap to get the first permit from the City of Pittsburgh for a wind turbine, then commissioning and installing one, will inspire others to do the same.