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Air Quality

Green Subways: An Answer Blowing in the Wind?

3:15 PM EST on November 13, 2007

234946793_dd350240bb.jpgAs part of its "Steal This Idea" series, Good magazine has a suggestion for a way to move toward a more sustainable New York: offering subway riders the chance to pay a little extra for a wind-powered ride.

Each year, the New York subway system uses 1.8 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, making it the city's single largest consumer of electricity. What if the subway's MetroCard machines offered the option of paying a small premium to purchase the rider's share of electricity from non-polluting wind power instead of traditional hydroelectric, nuclear, and fossil-fuel sources?

For its residential customers, ConEdison-the city's only electricity company-charges an additional 2.5 cents per kilowatt-hour to use wind energy. The average subway ride uses 1.2 kilowatt-hours of power (based on 1.5 billion 2006 rides), which means the wind power surcharge would amount to 3 extra cents a ride-a 1.5 percent increase from the normal $2 charge.

With a 1.5 percent surcharge, a seven-day unlimited pass would cost $24.36 (up from $24), and a 30-day unlimited pass would cost $77.14 (up from $76). Say the surcharge was 5 percent-those prices would only increase to $25.20 and $79.80. A 5-percent per ride surcharge with a slim 10-percent participant rate could inject as much as $15 million into the wind-power market annually.

Sounds intriguing. But as recent efforts to establish wind farms upstate, off Long Island and in the Nantucket Sound have shown, a combination of high cost, environmental concerns, and plain old NIMBYism has bedeviled the development of wind energy in New York and elsewhere.

Photo: Nick Atkins Photography via Flickr 

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