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Winds Of Change Send Clean Energy In A New Direction

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FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Fort Lauderdale Beach visitors and residents can see something new in the skyline of the city.

Wind turbines are now at the top of Fort Lauderdale’s tallest building. They are harnessing the ocean breeze to turn it into clean energy.

They can be seen from cruise ships, the beach or while driving down the street.

Some visitors said they appear to be dancing in the wind.

“Uhm, and they really are beautiful, it is kind of mesmerizing,” said a Fort Lauderdale visitor.

Fort Lauderdale is the only place in Florida where wind turbines like those on top of the Hilton hotel can be seen.

“It’s amazing. It’s a new icon in Fort Lauderdale,” added Tamas Vago, who runs operations for the Fort Lauderdale Beach Hilton.

Vago took CBS4’s Brian Andrews to the top of the building for a close-up look to see what the hotel spent seven years and more than a three-quarter of a million dollars to install.

The investment, hotel representatives said, will pay for itself through energy savings in less than a decade.

“It is saving us roughly $50,000 a year,” said Vago.

The six wind turbines became fully operational a few months ago giving the hotel clean, green energy that the hotel has already put to work.

“Each of them generates 4000 kilowatts, so 24-thousand all together,” added Vago.  “If we take all of the electricity that these turbines generate, I could light up this building, the common areas of this building with this energy.”

The turbines have become a tourist attraction – 27-stories high.

“I think that they are awesome!” said a Fort Lauderdale visitor from Michigan.

“They’re really like the windmills from like when you’re a child, so it’s really something nice,” said one tourist visiting from Canada.

Because South Florida is prone to hurricanes, the wind turbines had to be built to withstand high winds of up to 140 miles per hour.

If a storm produces winds greater than that, the turbines are retractable.

“A hydrolic folds all six of them down in one-hour and we secure them and put the brakes on it,” explained Vago.

Hilton Worldwide’s Lisa Cole believes the idea revolutionizes the green-initiative for the hotel chain.

“We have saved over $250 million in utility cost-savings across the globe,” she said. “They’re certainly iconic, but they’re doing more because they’re helping to save the Earth and isn’t that what we all what to do?”

The Hilton is actually offering tours of the turbine system every Thursday at 4 p.m.

Thanks to the wind turbines, this week, a national survey by mylife.com ranked greater Fort Lauderdale 5th among the nation’s 10 greenest mid-size cities.

Click here to find out more about the renewable technology used by the hotel.

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