Milwaukee officials are considering another high-profile project on the lakefront – one to three wind turbines near the Lake Express car ferry terminal.
City officials are considering whether to follow the lead of other Great Lakes cities like Toronto and Cleveland that have erected wind turbines in an urban setting.
The city’s sustainability office is considering whether to build the turbines adjacent to the port offices or the ferry terminal, by the Hoan Bridge in Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood.
The project would be funded with a block grant funded by the federal economic stimulus package, said Erick Shambarger, a city environmental sustainability manager.
“No property tax dollars would be involved,” he said. “The purpose is really to power the Port administration building with renewable energy.”
The city is allocating most of the $5.8 million in block grant money to programs aimed at boosting energy efficiency and conservation, but saw this project as an opportunity “to show the city’s commitment to renewable power. Having this at the port building would be a visible way to do that,” he said.
The city has selected two potential locations for the wind project. One would be next to the Lake Express ferry terminal, and the other next to the Port Administration building, 2323 S. Lincoln Memorial Drive.
Shambarger and Matthew Howard, the city’s sustainability director, said the locations were picked because they’re not close to residential neighborhoods and because the winds are strong along the lakefront.
Howard said a site assessment found the location.
“It’s one of the best profiles in the southeast region for wind,” particularly for the taller turbine under consideration, Howard said. “We don’t want this to be a gimmick. We want this to be an economic energy producer for the city.”
City officials are considering two different types of turbines, each of which would be less than half the size of the turbines We Energies built two years ago in Fond du Lac County. One turbine would be 115 feet tall at the tip of the blade, while the other would be 156 feet, compared with about 400 feet for the turbines at the Blue Sky Green Field wind farm.
No final decision has been made to go forward with the project. City officials will hold a meeting Thursday to offer Bay View residents a chance to weigh in on whether they like the idea of having a turbine along the lake.
“We really are trying to get public input. We recognize that the lakefront is sacred in some sense, and people are going to have different opinions about it,” Shambarger said. “That’s why we want to really get public input before we get too far along with the project.”
The larger turbine would generate enough power to meet the needs of about 12 homes. The smaller turbine would provide enough power for about two homes.
The cost of the project isn’t yet known, and would depend on the type of turbine selected. The larger turbine is pegged to cost $550,000, but the actual price could be reduced by incentives that the city would seek from the Focus on Energy program and Milwaukee utility We Energies.
Brian Manthey, a We Energies spokesman, said the utility provides incentives of $10,000 to $100,000 for renewable energy projects installed by nonprofit organizations and governments. Funding is awarded after Focus on Energy agrees to provide an incentive for a project, he said.
A Bay View business owner said he’s interested in learning more about the project and whether it’s a worthwhile investment.
“Being in the gear industry, I’m still not necessarily sold on the idea of wind power being a major solution to our problems,” said Steve Janke, president of Brelie Gear Co. “I’m not convinced that wind is necessarily the answer.”
He said he’d like to see city officials at Thursday’s meeting be prepared to discuss the payback period for the taxpayer investment in the proposal.
Bay View pharmacist and renewable energy supporter Tom Brandstetter said he would like to see the city make an even bigger statement in support of wind power.
The city of Toronto’s Exhibition Place turbine generates far more power than either of the turbines under consideration in Milwaukee, he said.
It’s in the wind
Wind turbines proposed for Milwaukee’s lakefront would be 115 feet to 156 feet. Here are stats on the heights of other wind turbines around the state:
Discovery World’s wind turbines: 30 feet
Renewegy “urban turbine,” erected at several locations in northeastern Wisconsin: 115 feet
We Energies Byron turbines along U.S. 41, Fond du Lac County: 290 feet
We Energies Blue Sky Green Field turbines, built in 2008 in Fond du Lac County: nearly 400 feet
Shirley Wind turbines, largest in Wisconsin, built in 2010 in Brown County: 500 feet
If you go
The informational meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday at the South Shore Park Pavilion in Bay View.
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