Greening Angel Island State Park

Angel Island State Park, as part of the California State Park system, is charged with carrying out the organizationís mission statement to "provide for the health, inspiration and education of the people of California by helping to preserve the stateís extraordinary biological diversity, protecting its most valued natural and cultural resources, and creating opportunities for high-quality outdoor recreation."

The wind turbine installed 25 years ago on the south side of Angel Island used to provide one-third of the parkís electricity.

By BC Staff
Published: October, 2008 

As part of this commitment, and given the increasing threats of global warming and fossil fuel dependence, the park is embarking on its own mission to reduce its environmental footprint. The park hopes that these steps reduce both its operating costs and carbon emissions, while at the same time providing a sustainable model for all California state parks.

To fulfill this mission, Angel Island State Park has partnered with Eco-Island, a non-profit project of the San Francisco-based Earth Island Institute. Founded in 2006 by Bay Area residents Joseph Wenisch and John Rethans in 2006, Eco-Islandís mission is to make Angel Island a symbol of the Bay Areaís environmental leadership by working with the park to harness renewable energy potential, promote sustainable management practices, and foster opportunities for environmental education. Working together with park superintendent Dave Matthews, Eco-Island is developing a plan to reduce the parkís electricity consumption by 30 percent, offset 100 percent of the parkís electricity purchases with renewable power generated on-site with solar and wind power, convert the parkís vehicles to run on biodiesel or electric power, and add opportunities for park visitors to learn about its sustainable practices.


The Wind Turbine: Time for Replacement

In 1983, in response to the energy crisis of the time, a first-generation Enertech 44/40 wind turbine capable of producing 40 kilowatt hours of electricity was erected at Point Blunt on the south side of Angel Island. With clear access to the westerly wind coming through the Golden Gate, it reliably offset one-third of the parkís electricity purchases for five years, before succumbing to failure due to a lack of sustained maintenance. This turbine, still in place today, in fact provided the inspiration for the founding of Eco-Island. Back in 2005, while sailing past Angel Island on a typical windy summer day, Wenisch noticed the turbine was not spinning. Inquiring about the turbine with some fellow sailors, he was surprised to find that none could remember ever having seen the turbine work. He wondered how it was possible that in arguably the most eco-aware city in the country, a wind turbine could be left in disrepair for so long. He thought of all the people that had seen the turbine broken for the past 20 years and how this may have ruined their image of wind energy. At that moment, he resolved to help the park remedy the situation.

Wind turbines have come a long way since 1983. A modern, medium-sized turbine built on the same site can produce 400,000 kilowatt hours of electrical energy for Angel Island. This has the potential to offset the islandís entire annual electricity use, after conservation measures have been put in place. The turbine would be grid-tied through the same undersea cable that currently supplies power from PG&E, and a net-metering arrangement with the utility can be put in place. This would allow the park to sell power back to the utility when it produced more than it needed, or purchase power from the utility when there was not enough wind to generate power. Aesthetically, this turbine would be only slightly more visible than the old turbine at a distance, yet still provide inspiration and education to the parkís many visitors and to all those who happen to sail by.

For more information: Contact Joseph Wenisch at


Angel Island Art Hike

Join Docent Silvia Lange for a free hike to places that inspired the BayWood Artists to paint the scenes of beautiful Angel Island for their upcoming exhibition Capturing Angel Island. Learn more about the island, the painters, and the BayWood Artistís program. Fifty percent of the proceeds from the sale of their paintings in the show will benefit the Angel Island Association, a nonprofit that supports Angel Island State Park. The hike is about 4 miles along the Perimeter Road. The exhibition will be held at the Bay Model, Sausalito Oct. 24 - Nov 17. For more information call (415) 435-3972.

Saturday, October 11; Sunday, October 19; Sunday, November 2

Take the 10 a.m. ferry from Tiburon. Meet on the ferry or at the Gift Shop on the Island and bring comfortable walking shoes, layered clothes, water, and lunch.