Defunct Windspire Wins Greenwashing Award

By Paul Gipe

No, there’s no such award, but if there was Mariah Windspire would win, hands down.

In the annals of greenwashing, no wind turbine company has done more to develop the technique to a fine art. It’s as if the company’s entire business model was built on finding participants who wanted a greenwashing project.

Actually, it was an unholy alliance between Mariah Windspire’s greenwashing and the so-called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or LEED that led to the installation of Windspire’s Vertical Axis Wind Turbines (VAWTs) at buildings across the US.


The most well known example are the 20 Windspire wind turbines installed by Adobe Systems in a transparent attempt to win the coveted LEED Platinum designation for its high-rise office buildings in California’s Silicon Valley. Both Adobe and Mariah heavily touted the installation on their web sites.

However, the wind turbines are installed in the courtyard of the complex!

Mariah Windspire installed the turbines on the sixth floor roof of a parking garage that sits between three office buildings. According to a Windspire blog, “The two larger buildings create a wind tunnel effect, providing ample wind resources for the turbines.”

To compound the folly, Adobe brags about its accomplishment.

“With the installation of the Windspires, we’re adding renewable energy to a long list of green measures Adobe has taken to lessen our environmental impact,” said Randall H. Knox, III, senior director, Global Workplace Solutions, Adobe. “We’ll continue to seek innovative green technology solutions to reduce our energy dependence and inspire others to go green.”


Not to be outdone by the upstarts down the peninsula, San Francisco wanted in the greenwashing game too. 

Thus, the new San Franicsco Public Utilities Commission building (SFPUC)—also LEED rated—sports four Windspire turbines mounted on the side of the building.

Again, defenders of these “architectural adornments” argue that the building’s design will funnel wind to the turbines.

Note that the SFPUC has no connection to the California Public Utilities Commission, which is also located in San Francisco.

San Francisco was relatively late to the “building-integrated”, LEED-gaming effort. Others had trod the ground long before.

Keep Indianapolis Beautiful

Sometime in 2008, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful (KIB) installed three Windspires on the ground in front of their new energy-efficient building. See How Not to Site Vertical Axis Wind Turbines (Mariah Windspire) #2.

On a recent visit to the site in downtown Indianapolis the turbines were “spinning”.

Spinning is Not Enough

The good news is that the turbines should last indefinitely at these installations since it’s unlikely that they will experience sufficient winds to do more than make them spin.

And spinning is fine for “kinetic sculptures” and whirligigs, but it’s not enough for wind turbines that are intended to generate electricity.

In a weak attempt to justify these egregious examples of greenwashing, defenders of the practice argue that it provides displays of working wind turbines and exposes the public to renewable energy.

Displaying to the public wind turbines that seldom produce any electricity, or those that consume more electricity than they produce does not demonstrate renewable energy’s benefits. Instead, such shams only demonstrate that wind energy doesn’t work, is expensive, and fraudulent because the “demonstration” is built on misleading the public.

Adobe, SFPUC, and KIB would do everyone a favor by either removing Mariah’s Windspires, or simply relabeling them as architectural bling or kinetic sculptures. They are not wind turbines.