Tappan Zee Bridge Solar Farm?

What if the old bridge could earn over $4 million dollars per year as a renewable energy generator? We could have the first fully net zero energy bridges in the nation.

In today's Journal News, Greg Clary's column points out that some knowledgeable folks think recycling the Tappan Zee Bridge as a bike-ped crossing has some real merit. Last week's column looked into the options. So this week, let's go further.

Governor Cuomo thinks the option of the old TZB as bike-ped crossing is “an exciting option.” Erik Kulleseid, executive director of The Alliance for New York State Parks, thinks so too. Dan Biederman, who helped New York City successfully privatize Bryant Park as an economic driver for Midtown, agrees. 

But how would the state pay for maintaining the old bridge, if it recycled it for human-powered transportation? 

The state could bankroll the avoided demolition cost–an estimated $150 million–as a future maintenance fund. But there is another option. 

Why not privatize the air space over the TZB’s south-facing railing? Doing so would allow the state to lease that space for a public benefit in a public private partnership.

In other words, why not install a row of solar panels below the south-facing railing over the full length of the old bridge? That face has excellent solar exposure.

A quick calculation shows that the TZB solar farm will produce about electricity worth about $4.4 million in 2013. Three miles of solar panels could be installed for just over half what the cost of demolition would be.

That solar electric output becomes more valuable over the life of the system, typically 20 to 25 years.

At that volume in both annual dollars and kilowatt-hours, a TZB solar farm would be quite viable for a private organization to fund. Such a group’s business model could entail selling the power to the Bridge Authority under a low cost, long-term contract (aka a “power purchase agreement”).

In fact, with a few technical adjustments, both the new and old bridges could be lit at night by solar power harvested during the day. The sun could run the new bridge’s tollbooths as well.

We could have the first fully net zero energy bridges in the nation.

Or maybe the Town of Greenburgh or another orgranization would want to buy that power and lock in a 20-year price for electricity that will be lower than what we pay now to either ConEdison or New York Power Authority.

Technical notes: These calculations (by Croton Energy Group) assume a solar electric system using conventional photovoltaic modules (aka solar panels) with an output of 260 watts each. At a conservative average width per moduleincluding racking of 44 inches , three miles of bridge railing accommodates 4,320 modules. This solar array yields 22 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) in year 1. At an electric rate of about 20 cents per kWh–less than we pay now as residential ConEd customers in Westchester County–this output is worth about $4.4 million in year 1. Electric rates have been going up about 4 to 5% per year. By year 25 this annual output will be worth just under $20 million. Using current construction prices per photovoltaic watt installed (design, permits, insurance, labor, and all materials with some economies of scale gained from such a large system), the total installation price is roughly $85 million. The full installation of 4,320 modules with racking and wiring would weigh about 76 pound per module or about 50 tons per mile. During rush hour now, the old TZB holds up about 230,000 tons per mile in vehicle weight alone. Roughly, the new solar system will weight one half of one percent of the old bridge's vehicle traffic. So the solar farm is unlikely to present any weight challenges to the old bridge. 

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Richard Marsella February 25, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Excellent idea, current below, solar along the south side, wind power above (the wind really rips down the Hudson), all engineered to distribute the weight evenly, all weighing a good deal LESS than the 230,000 tons per mile in vehicle weight.
Leo Wiegman February 25, 2012 at 08:12 PM
To examine wind power potential anywhere in the state, visit: http://nyswe.awstruepower.com/ and enter your desired location (or scroll there via the map). For TZB, I used Latitude: 41.06972 and Longitude: -73.89740 and got a Mean annual wind speed of 11.01 mph (4.92 m/s). This amounts to "average" potential at 120 feet above ground (water) level in the middle of the Tappan Zee Bridge for a maximum of about 18,900 kWh/yr/installation. It would require over 1,100 of such wind turbines to equal the solar system output projected above of circa 22 million kWh/year.
elizabeth February 26, 2012 at 12:21 PM
Being a resident of Nyack, who enjoys daily walking, I lament every time I look at the river: " How much more beautiful it would look, without the ugly bridge in the way...." I certainly don't want to see "two ugly bridges" scarring the view. My husband is an engineer, as are some of the consultants from "Riverkeeper." They are not convinced that the current bridge cannot be repaired and function for so much less money than it will cost to build another. Certainly, if the new bridge was to have a mass transit component, it would be worth it in the long run, but if not, why jump into this new construction if the bridge can possibly be repaired?
EAR Consulting Associates February 26, 2012 at 01:55 PM
Not at today's rates and the inflated raes as the reise over the next 25 years.
EAR Consulting Associates February 26, 2012 at 02:01 PM
Until Mr. Wiegman prices the solar approach your guess is as good as his. Let's look at the engineering & economics before you jump to conclusions. The solar installation could be owned by a public private-partnership as is common in Europe and the US far west. Let's be creative before we scrape an innovative proposed idea. Obviously somethging must be done about the bridge due to its present condition. We must think in 21st century technology not 1950's civil engineering thinking.
EAR Consulting Associates February 26, 2012 at 02:04 PM
Let's go to an RFP to solar and wind companies and let them be the judge what makes economic sense to them rather than casual observers guesses to what is the right solution. Technology and costs are moving along faster than the general public is aware of and the benefits of sustainable energy can not always be measured in today's dollars and cents.
EAR Consulting Associates February 26, 2012 at 02:06 PM
Maybe an alternate better solution. Let's let the experts evaluate the economics and technology solutions...by haviong the state solicit proposals from industry knoiwlegible companies of such projective two solutions.
Jack February 26, 2012 at 05:48 PM
I completely agree with all of Adrians points!!! The current bridge is unsafe, tired and ugly. Trust me my friend is an iron worker and repairs the bridges in all of NY and he said he said even with foot traffic only there would be millions each year in repairs. Want a park, go to hook mountain or the multitude of other parksmin this area. Wake up people, it's nice to dream but we all know the state will mess this up and we will wind up paying for it. Unfun fact: Did you know when the bridges and tunnels were built in this area the tolls we only supposed to be high enough to pay for bridge maintenance, you all know thats not happen ending ormthentoll would be a dollar!
Jack February 26, 2012 at 05:51 PM
I completely agree with all of Adrians points!!! The current bridge is unsafe, tired and ugly. Trust me my friend is an iron worker and repairs the bridges in all of NY and he said he said even with foot traffic only there would be millions each year in repairs. Want a park, go to hook mountain or the multitude of other parks in this area. Wake up people, it's nice to dream but we all know the state will mess this up and we will wind up paying for it. Unfun fact: Did you know when the bridges and tunnels were built in this area the tolls we only supposed to be high enough to pay for bridge maintenance, you all know thats not happen ending or the toll would be a dollar! BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR!!!!
elizabeth mclaughlin February 26, 2012 at 10:17 PM
I would not give up my Republic or Constitutional Rights for a solar farm.
Mary February 26, 2012 at 10:53 PM
The truth about wind turbines... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lm0Oe8J6qT8
Paul Feiner February 27, 2012 at 04:06 AM
A great recommendation. A number of years ago I suggested that wind turbines be placed on the Tappan Zee bridge when the new bridge is built. A combination of wind and solar technology makes great sense. Putting solar panels, wind turbines on the bridge would help the state save money. It would also send a powerful message to those crossing the bridge to conserve energy. Everytime one crosses the bridge they will reflect on the importance of using alternative energy like wind/solar. PAUL FEINER Greenburgh Town Supervisor
Mike S February 27, 2012 at 05:14 AM
Demolish it and build a couple of tunnels. Make the river beautiful again. Tunnels will also save on maintenance and plowing costs and eliminate the sun glare at commuting times. Just think how ugly an old beat up bridge would be if it were fitted with 3 miles of solar panels. There are plenty of places for companies to build alternative energy generators, I don't think the TZ bridge is a good choice for that.
Bill February 27, 2012 at 06:03 AM
What are you talking about????
Mary February 27, 2012 at 10:50 AM
This scenario is part of Agenda 21 a/k/a Sustainable Development...if you haven't heard about it, here is a video that explains it... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIqvyOho5PQ&feature=colike
DeeplyConcernedabout T-town February 27, 2012 at 12:02 PM
Tunnels are not practical. Think of the disruption. The amount of homes or buildings that would be lost to engineer a plaza where the vhicles emerge from the tunnel The underground utilities to be moved or relocated. The costs associated with such a project would be more than building a new bridge.
Randy February 27, 2012 at 12:15 PM
Let's just fix our existing bridge and save the money that would be expended building a new bridge until there is a plan which properly addresses long term growth in Rockland and puts mass transit in place. As for this idea of wind farms and solar panels on the old bridge I see too many dollar signs in the eyes of those who would benefit from this poorly conceived idea. Can you imagine looking at 3 miles of solar panels? How long would they last hanging over brackish water? Remember what happens to everything you put on your boat that is not stainless steel. As for windmills, they would destroy a beautiful view for many, produce little energy, kill many local birds and make a lot of noise which would disturb those living in river villages. We only get one chance at doing this right, if the wrong bridge is built no one is going to fund another bridge.
Blue February 27, 2012 at 12:47 PM
Well I know what Consulting Service I'm never using.
EAR Consulting Associates February 27, 2012 at 01:11 PM
Those who will beneit include not limited to local job seekers, the state or nearby communities buying green power, and the public who will view sustainable energy generation in action as they cross the bridge everyday. Wind turbines and the ecology have been studied in many locations and successful projects can be found all over the Northeast. Aesthetics and Visual impact has been address by NY State in Program Policy Directive DEP-00-2 over twelve years ago and will give the proposer of such projects guidelines for design. As we move into the 21st century sustainable energy generation is a technology we must seriously consider and "step up to plate" with innovative solutions such as Leo is suggesting.
elizabeth February 27, 2012 at 02:10 PM
Would EAR Consulting Ass., be included in the list of "those who will benefit?" "As we move into the 21st century, mass transit, is the best way to 'step up to the plate,' is it not?
EAR Consulting Associates February 27, 2012 at 02:18 PM
I only benefit as a Westchester County Tax payer and my children and grand children as we create a cleaner greener environment. You too Elizabeth would benefit in a similar fashion.
EAR Consulting Associates February 27, 2012 at 02:20 PM
Elizabeth, Mass transit is indeed one of the many ways to "step up to the plate"...Sustainable energy, water conservation, recyling, etc.... The list goes on and on. We all must address the use of a large variety of new technologies to successfully address these areas of our enviroment for ourselves, our children and grand children.
Leo Wiegman February 27, 2012 at 03:13 PM
Just for clarification, the solar farm we modeled for TZB (either old or new bridge) is a very conservative single row of photovoltaic panels that is 3 miles long and mounted on the south facing "railing" of the bridge. Such an intstallton would be integrated into the bridge and NOT as pictured in the montage Patch graciously supplied above. We used pricing that brought the cost for that to roughly $85 million, assuming ZERO incentives or depreciation, etc. The net cost will be lower. Does anyone know what the utility bill is now for operating the TZB (illumination, toll booths, etc)?
MitchP February 27, 2012 at 04:15 PM
How many annual visitors to a tappan zee bridge-park would be needed to justify the expense of maintaining an ever-aging 3 mile steel and concrete structure? How many people would really use this to walk or bike across the river for dining or shopping in Nyack or Tarrytown? Would you want to bring young children on a 6 mile round trip journey? Could you picnic or grill on the bridge, and would you want to in a place that is also potentially ideal for the placement of wind turbines...AND with the NYS thruway in the background? We already have a ton of great parks all over the Hudson Valley--that our taxes are paying for--and we're fortunate to have them. Let's be practical; $150 million for any government project in this day and age is basically a bargain and slapping an Energy Star sticker on the existing bridge and expecting money miracles is just not realistic.
Virginia Arnold, LMT February 27, 2012 at 07:00 PM
the possibilities are endless for multipurpose use of public domain properties...
Greg Tart February 27, 2012 at 09:46 PM
They could put into the RFP that a certain percentage of jobs must go to minority job seekers from Westchester, say 20 to 30%. That would get my support as a conservative voter.
John Gromada February 28, 2012 at 04:44 AM
The bridge has not falling down anytime soon- the state has not classified it as 'structurally deficient' but simply 'functionally obsolete' - that is to say they just want it to carry more traffic. The bridge can be maintained as is for the forseeable future. see this http://capntransit.blogspot.com/2011/10/real-danger-from-tappan-zee-bridge.html
Scott Walters February 28, 2012 at 02:26 PM
And since Agenda 21 is brought to you by those fine folks at the UN, you need to RUN, not walk away from it!
Scott Walters February 28, 2012 at 02:34 PM
I have said for years that solar panels should be on every flat roofed building and could be exacted in the interest of national security, i.e. energy independence. No one from the left or right has taken this proposal seriously. That said, to add yet more stuff on the old TZ is sheer folly. Please, let's get a proper crossing done with the proper amentities on it so that we can move into the future. I know it wil take longer than building the Old TZ, the GWB, the Brooklyn Bridge and Varrazano Narrows combined, thanks to the EPA, unions, etc...but it needs to be done.
Gnarum July 31, 2012 at 10:39 AM
Keeping the bridge as a solar power device is a magnificent idea!


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