City Hall may be getting a green makeover. Officials are currently finalizing plans for a massive fuel cell for the landmark building after a proposal to build rooftop solar panels was rejected. Housed in a large, green box on City Hall’s north side, the 100-kilowatt cell will generate enough energy to power the entire historic building. The electricity produced will significantly reduce the city’s costs and CO2 emissions by replacing the oil and coal-produced energy provided by the grid. But will the plan get through the city’s red tape? Or will it suffer the same fate as the proposed solar panels?
According to Lawrence Gutterman, an architect with Beyer Blinder Belle, the fuel cell will use natural gas to trigger an electricity-generating chemical reaction. “It’s a means of providing more affordable energy to the building, using a chemical reaction that does not involve any harmful emissions to the environment.”
The fuel cell is enormous – 45 feet long, 9 feet wide and 8 feet high. However, it will be far less visible than the rooftop solar panels that were originally proposed. These were not only too expensive, but were also unpopular within the influential CB1 Landmarks Committee. The panels would have changed the face of historic City Hall too drastically.
The fuel cell, on the other hand, will be largely invisible, placed along an inaccessible path on the building’s northeast side. This discreet location, as well as the cell’s potential for producing cheap, green energy has contributed to its wide support in the Landmarks Committee. They recently voted 7-1 in support of the fuel cell plan.
The future of the City Hall fuel cell now lies with the Landmarks Preservation Commission. It has the final say and will announce its review of the design at a public hearing June 21.