Empire State goes green

The Empire State Building, which has been undergoing a $20-million energy-saving retrofit, last month announced it would meet all its electricity needs with wind power.

In a two-year deal the building will buy 55-million kilowatt hours of renewable energy certificates a year the equivalent of its annual energy needs — from the Texas-based Green Mountain Energy Company.

According to an announcement, that is more than double the amount of renewable power purchased by any other commercial customer in New York City. It says reductions in carbon emissions from the shift to wind power for the 102-storey building is the equivalent of turning off the lights in nearly every house in New York State for a week.

Tony Malkin, the president of Malkin Holdings, which runs the Empire State, dismissed the idea that he had set out to “green” the building, noting that Green Mountain had come in with the lowest bid to supply power. “Everything we are doing at the Empire State building is based on the market price, demonstrating you can have efficiency at the same or at lower cost,” he said.

In recent years the building’s grandeur faded and in 2009 Malkin undertook a $550-million renovation project, including the energy retrofit. Some environmental groups have questioned whether renewable energy certificates represent a true reduction in carbon emissions, short of compelling companies to build new wind power plants to meet increased demand.

But Malkin said there was a strong symbolic value of having the Empire State shift to wind energy. “There is no way to be certain that the power I paid for actually shows up at my building, but it certainly displaces other power that is not green,” he said. —

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