Jeramey Jannene

Renewable Energy in the Midwest

By - Jun 9th, 2009 11:38 am
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The production of renewable energy continues to move forward in the Midwest as new projects are proposed and government adjusts to make construction of new developments easier. The most noteworthy is the planned 39 acre urban solar power plant in the City of Chicago’s West Pullman neighborhood.

The site selected for the solar power plant is a heavily contaminated brownfield on Chicago’s south side.  The site has been unused for 30 years, and even after remediation wouldn’t be suitable for recreational use.  Judging from other reports, all that stands between the plan and its implementation is the approval of a $48 million stimulus loan from the U.S Department of Energy Loan Guarantee Program Office to cover up to 80% of the project costs.

This 10-megawatt solar photovoltaic (PV) facility, featuring 32,800 solar panels that will produce enough clean energy to fulfill the annual requirements of 1,200 to 1,500 homes, will displace approximately 31.2 million pounds of greenhouse emissions annually (the equivalent of taking more than 2,500 cars off the road or planting more than 3,200 acres of forest).


View Chicago Solar Power Plant in a larger map

Also of interest, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Thomas Content has a good rundown of what progress has been made regarding wind power in Wisconsin, and what obstacles are holding its development.  From a high level things appear pretty good…

By many accounts it was a banner year for the state. Record development of wind power took place, with the opening of four large wind-power projects by companies including We Energies, Invenergy and Wisconsin Power & Light Co.

Eight times as much wind power is being generated today as there was a little more than a year ago. But electricity from the wind still accounts for only about 5% of the state’s power supply.

But there are significant challenges.  A couple key takeaways from the article…

  • State Senator Jeff Plale (D-Milwaukee) and State Representative Jim Soletski (D-Green Bay) are lead sponsors of a bill to set up uniform siting standards for all wind farms that would be built in the state.  To put things in perspective, the last project that was approved by a local government happened in March of 2007.
  • The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has been difficult to work with in order to obtain permits to move the parts throughout Wisconsin.  According to Port of Milwaukee marketing director Betty Nowak this has led to an direct decrease in the volume of wind-power parts coming through the port.  These issues have since been resolved. I would guess this is why WisDOT has been so feverishly expanding freeways around Milwaukee ( for the Zoo Interchange, and for I-94 to the state line), but judging by how Bucryus and Joy Global continue to produce massive mining equipment in Milwaukee, this can’t be the case.
  • Wisconsin is behind marketing itself to wind power companies.

How does all of this affect Milwaukee? Besides the obvious change to a more sustainable of source of power, which will result in cleaner air for Milwaukee residents, there are numerous other pieces to this puzzle.  One already mentioned is the use of the port, a higher port utilization means more jobs.  On top of that, Wisconsin has for a long-time been involved in the manufacturing supply chain.  Despite that an incredible number of those jobs are gone for one reason or another, the capacity for such production still exists.  With the size and timing of such projects creating a rather large incentive to make the parts locally, Wisconsin and Milwaukee in particularly could benefit from the increased use of wind turbines for power.

The development of an urban solar power plant is something to also watch closely.  If it works on a Chicago brownfield, I can imagine it would work equally as well on a Milwaukee brownfield (or factory rooftop).


3 thoughts on “Renewable Energy in the Midwest”

  1. Suzanne says:

    Have you seen the field of solar panels at Johnson Controls in Glendale? It’s very, very exciting.

  2. Chris says:

    Renewable energy starts at home, too. WE Energies gives its customers the option to use 25, 50, or 100% renewable energy in their own homes ( They have a great list of links and resources on their website, too, on how to get started down the avenue of using cleaner, more efficient energy (

  3. Ed says:

    There are indeed many wonderful things happening with renewable energy in the city of Milwaukee. I strongly encourage everyone to do all they can to further this movement in the city and throughout our state. There are many ways to learn about R.E. technologies in our state. Check out the MREA’s website for class listings on all aspects of renewables. Make sure you get a site assessment if you are thinking of installing a renewable energy system. This, if done by a qualified(and certified) person, will insure you get the proper info you need before starting your renewable energy project. I would also urge you to look at Wisconsin’s Focus On Energy site ( to find a NABCEP Certified installer. Always remember when you do this you should try to look LOCAL so you are helping to create the sustainable future which will benefit us all.

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