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LQC: BirdAir and the Solar Carrousel

If you’re not familiar with Joan Bozer and WNY Sustainable Energy Association’s push to build a solar carrousel on the waterfront, click here for some background information. The idea resurfaced recently when Roger Schroeder submitted a lighter, quicker cheaper version of the concept (see here). Over the weekend, Joan send me some renderings that take the idea of ‘lighter, quicker, cheaper’ to an entirely different level – if we are going to see any of these ideas come to fruition, we must look at ways to get the dreams off the ground, in hopes that someday we can take them even further. From Joan:

The project involves acquiring an early 1900’s Herschell carrousel,  acquiring the canopy, having both installed on 1 acre of land on the waterfront that is accessible to the light rail and bicycle paths, and finding the right folks to oversee the management, operation and maintenance of the carrousel.

Because the carrousel mechanism that was donated to the project by the Herschell Carrousel Museum (described in our initial project proposal) has been lying around for almost 7 years, first at the Pierce Arrow Storage and then at the Central Terminal, we have been advised by the president of the Herschell Carrousel Museum here, and the president of the National Carrousel Association, that it would be excessively expensive to rehab.  They recommend we purchase an early 1900’s Herschell Carrousel when one becomes available – it would be cheaper and quicker than repairing and replacing parts.  So we have updated our project proposal to reflect the need to acquire a functioning Herschell carrousel.  

The Herschell Carrousel Museum is partnering with the Western New York Sustainable Energy Association on this project.  The president of the Museum advised us that “It is very possible to obtain a Herschell carousel under $1 million.” and she gave two references to call.  She said there are always several carrousels listed for sale.  

BirdAir advises us that they can provide that canopy for this summer.  The price tag for the canopy is about $550,000-$600,000, plus the cost of the solar panels.  So altogether the acquisition costs would be between $1 million and $2 million. We have the estimate from BirdAir.  We propose the BirdAir tensile fabric canopy be installed for a “lighter, quicker, cheaper” installation until a more permanent enclosure can be built, at which time solar and wind power would be integrated into the building.  At that time, in addition to the entertainment family-oriented value of the carrousel, we would realize the educational component of our proposal – the energy demonstration value.

The concept would need a project manager who would be responsible for the installation, operation and maintenance of the carrousel.  We have used the Saratoga Springs enclosed carrousel in College Park as a model which is owned and operated by the city of Saratoga Springs.   When it opened in 2003, there were 84,000 riders the first three months, more adults than children,  and they were able to set aside $25,000 to pay for maintenance and operation. They also rented it out for parties, etc. They said they would welcome a visit from interested team from Buffalo to see the carrousel and answer questions.

The solar powered carrousel is the idea of Laura Briggs who formerly taught architecture at Cornell, brought her students  here in 2001 and they constructed Solarwalls which stood near the Erie Basin Marina in the summer of 2001,.  She is now the head of architecture at the Parsons New School in NYC.  She wrote a report,” Ideas for a Riverwalk” in which she suggested a solar-powered Herschell carrousel for our waterfront, as well as other ideas.

BirdAir is headquartered here and makes the tensile fabric for the canopies. BirdAir graciously transported the Smithsonians’ huge Solar Pavillion to Buffalo from New York City and installed it on the Buffalo waterfront to celebrate the Pan American Exposition Centennial in 2001.  It was part of Waterfest.  Buffalo also hosted Solar Splash in 2001 – the intercollegiate international solar/electric boat competition at Delaware Park Lake – as part of the Pan Am Centennial celebration.  

Google BirdAir – they have some ‘knock-your-sox’ off designs. It would be great to have a few signature BirdAir structures here in their home town! Carrousels can be moved.  The canopy can be moved or reused if we go for
the permanent glass-enclosure for the carrousel to extend the season or
use year-round… The Herschell Carrousel Museum is also located here, making this project a great fit for Buffalo. 


Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside, Buffalo Porchfest, and Paint vs. Paint. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market on Elmwood. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at Statler City, the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival, and The Flutterby Festival.

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