Windworks / 519 East 11th Street

Company – Mukwonago, USA

1971 – 1985

Windworks was a research group of the engineer Hans Meyer and later became a company that operated through the 1970s and was supported by Buckminster Fuller who acted as an advisor. The group specialised in finding small-scale solutions for generating renewable energy with a particular focus on wind power. Their DIY ethic fit well with the US counter-cultural scene of the seventies and they published extensively in journals such as Shelter and Popular Science, including plans and instructions for windmills that cost as little as $20 and could be built by amateurs. Windworks provided the windmill for an experiment in small-scale urban power generation at 519 East 11th Street, New York.

The five-storey tenement was located in one of the poorest neighbourhoods of the city and yet it was supplied electricity at the highest rates in the country. In 1976 an organisation called ETF (Energy Task Force) together with community activists and residents of the tenant owned co-operative collectively erected a windmill on the roof which was to provide electricity for lighting hallways and other communal areas, as well as installing solar panels for heating water. The whole system was hooked up to the electric grid with the ability to sell surplus electricity back. The energy company refused to pay and instead claimed that the generation of power was illegal and a threat to their network. The case eventually went to court which found in favour of the co-operative. Whilst the windmill only operated for a few years due to a lack of maintenance, the solar panels lasted much longer and the experiment proved the usefulness and feasibility of the small-scale generation of renewable energy in an urban context.

Other Work

'Windworks', in Shelter, ed. by Hans Meyer, Llloyd Kahn and Bob Easton (Bolinas: Shelter Publications, Inc., 2000).

References About

Giovanna Borasi, 'An Urban Experiment: 519 East 11th Street', in Sorry Out of Gas, ed. by Mirko Borasi and Mirko Zardini (Mantova: Edizioni Corraini/Canadian Centre for Architecture, 2008), pp. 180-183.

Jon Naar, '519 East 11th Street, New York City: The Right to Interconnect', in The New Wind Power (New York: Penguin Books, 1982), pp. 154-56.

Jeremy Olshan and Marcie Young, 'Windy Spirit of '76: E. Village 'Power' Hippies Beat Bloomy by 32 Years', New York Post, 22 August 2008 http://www.nypost.com/seven/08222008/news/regionalnews/windy_spirit_of_76_125590.htm [accessed 14 July 2009].

Josh Weil, 'The Wind Farmers of East 11th Street', The New York Times, 3 August 2008, New York edition, p. CY8, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/03/nyregion/thecity/03wind.html [accessed 31 Dec 2009].

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