Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

The Little Windmill That Could

Mayor celebrates city's only wind turbine; 1 million kilowatt hours of power earned $53,000

By - Nov 1st, 2018 10:07 am
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Port Milwaukee wind turbine. Photo from City of Milwaukee.

Port Milwaukee wind turbine. Photo from City of Milwaukee.

Driving over the Hoan Bridge or walking the streets of Bay View, you may have noticed an interesting piece of infrastructure. A single wind turbine spins outside of Port Milwaukee’s headquarters at 2323 S. Lincoln Memorial Dr.

The turbine was installed in early 2012 as a pilot project by the city to provide electricity for the city’s two-story Port Milwaukee office building, with surplus electricity sold to We Energies. It’s $587,000 cost was covered almost entirely by a mix of grants, including 2009 federal stimulus program.

Last week the city celebrated a significant milestone, the turbine generated its one millionth kilowatt hour of electricity. The electricity, valued at approximately $131,000 based on We Energies’ base residential rate, has far exceeded the port office’s needs. The city has earned $53,000 selling excess power to We Energies.

“We have reduced carbon emissions, demonstrated the capabilities of wind energy, and saved taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars,” said Mayor Tom Barrett. “By any measure, the Port’s wind turbine has been a success.”

The 100-kilowatt turbine produces enough electricity annually to power 18 average Wisconsin homes.

It’s 154 feet tall, less than half the height of substantially larger 1.5-megawatt, utility-scale turbines. A single blade (134 feet) in Wisconsin’s largest wind power installation, Blue Sky Green Field in Fond du Lac County, is nearly the height of the entire port turbine.

Port Milwaukee’s turbine, which pivots automatically to catch the strongest air flow, is a product of Vermont-based Northern Power. Twelve Wisconsin companies participated in manufacturing components for the turbine, including the tower, coating system, castings and disk brakes.

According to the city’s Environmental Collaboration Office, with regular maintenance the turbine should last for 40 years or longer.

Still, the city isn’t looking to add another wind turbine to save more money. Erick Shambarger, who leads the city’s Environmental Collaboration Office, told WUWM earlier this year that the city is instead focusing its efforts on solar power given the lack of grant funding for wind power and difficulty in identifying a site.

The Environmental Collaboration Office website touts 11 city buildings with solar installations, six of which are fire stations with equipment to produce hot water from solar power.

The city has made significant strides on energy efficiency as well. In 2013 the director of the U.S. Department of Energy‘s Better Buildings Challenge visited Milwaukee to see the city’s energy efficiency efforts first hand. A press conference was held at the Central Library to highlight the multi-faceted overhaul of the century-old building, which the city said was saving $36,000 annually. Barrett said at the press conference that energy efficiency initiatives at city facilities, including the turbine, were saving $500,000 annually.

Along with a budget impact, the efforts have had an environmental impact. Based on the electricity generated, the turbine’s production has prevented the release of 1.3 million pounds of carbon dioxide into the air by a conventional power plant.

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