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NEW YORK CITY-The one-million-square-foot Chelsea Piers sports and entertainment complex, currently the largest commercial user of wind power in the city, won plaudits as a pioneer along with 11 other green energy users at a ceremony held Thursday morning. The event, held at Chelsea Piers, was sponsored by ConEdison Solutions, which has provided alternative energy sources for both residential and commercial customers since 1998.

David Tewksbury, EVP of Chelsea Piers Management, tells GlobeSt.com the complex made the switch to 100% wind power last October as part of a comprehensive sustainability program. Since that time, upstate windmill farms have generated 11 million kilowatt hours of energy for Chelsea Piers that otherwise would have come from conventional power plants.

When devising a green program for Chelsea Piers, “We looked at it from an energy standpoint and an operational standpoint,” says Tewksbury. “On the operational side, what jumped out at us was conservation and recycling. And as we looked around our site, we set a target of reducing our solid waste consumption by 20% within 24 months. We’re well on our way to that goal.”

Recycling is a major component of that effort, Tewksbury says. “Every water or soda bottle sold here now is collected and shredded and gets picked up by a plastic recycling company–and there are a lot of plastic bottles used by individuals here,” he says. “We’re also encouraging the use of reusable water bottles on site. Anywhere we could attack the habit of consuming and throwing away, we’ve tried to go after it.”

Helping drive these efforts are volunteer “green teams” within each business at Chelsea Piers. “They work with the team leaders and make suggestions, because they’re in the trenches every day,” says Tewksbury.

Hand in hand with the switch to wind power was a green energy audit which led to retrofitting the entire complex with energy-efficient lighting. Naturally, that entailed some expense, as did the switch to wind power. However, Tewksbury says, “What drove us was the idea of taking a series of steps to become a better environmental citizen. And although those steps cost additional money up front, over time we felt they would pay for themselves in many different ways. A recycling program takes money to implement, but in the long run, if we’re removing 20% less solid waste from the site, there’s a cost savings there.”

He adds that the switch to wind power entails a cost increase of only $100,000 on the complex’s annual electricity bill of $3.8 million. “It’s not that significant,” says Tweksbury.

Asked whether Chelsea Piers can be seen as a pioneer in greening its operations, a ConEdison Solution spokeswoman tells GlobeSt.com, “Very much so. But we think all of our customers, large and small, are pioneers. They’re setting an example.”

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