12:11pm

Tue November 8, 2011
Energy

Are you ready for some wind power? Buffalo Bills install turbines

Ralph Wilson Stadium has long been known as one of the windiest venues in the National Football League.

Now, the home stadium of the Buffalo Bills, known as "the Ralph," is taking advantage of it. Thirty small turbines now harness wind blowing into the venue for electricity.

The devices made their debut at the Bills vs. New York Jets home game Sunday. Painted red and blue, the turbines, about three feet in height, are located under the stadium's large western scoreboard.

But the turbines at the venue don't resemble the large windmills on Lake Erie near Buffalo, or in nearby Wyoming County.

"These look like egg beaters. They rotate on a vertical axis as opposed to the type that you're used to seeing," says Dan Bates, CEO of WindStream Technologies, which installed the turbines

Electricity generated by the turbines will provide a "meaningful percentage" of power for the stadium, Bates says - but he couldn't say specifically what that means.

"We are taking that energy and putting it back into the grid at the stadium level, and they can use it to offset any number of devices - computers, lights, refrigerators, televisions, things like that," he says.

Home games, of which there are just seven a year, are a small part of the equation.

"[The installation] generates energy 24/7. So game days [are from] 1 to 4 p.m. on a Sunday. But Tuesday afternoon at 3 o'clock it'll still be generating electricity," Bates says.

The Ralph has been said to need more than $100 million dollars in the upgrades and repairs for the franchise to sign a new lease (and remain in Buffalo) at the 40-year-old venue. At around $200 apiece, the turbines were a relatively cheap add-on.

The windmills will eventually pay for themselves in electricity savings, Bates says. But it's unclear whether that will actually happen, as the turbines are currently scheduled to be in place for only the next season and a half.