More than 160 people got their first glimpse Thursday of what a city wind turbine development near the Port of Milwaukee would look like.
A packed house at the South Shore Park Pavilion took a look at the renderings. Some asked questions about the project, its cost, and the noise the turbines would generate, among other concerns.
The city’s Office of Environmental Sustainability is proposing the project to make a statement in support of renewable energy and to tap greener sources of electricity for the Port of Milwaukee’s administration building.
The turbines would be either 115 or 156 feet tall, depending on the model selected. That’s less than half as tall as the utility-scale turbines built in recent years by We Energies and Invenergy in Fond du Lac and Dodge counties.
Ken Szallai, president of the Lake Express Ferry, said the city should consider making a broader statement toward sustainability that could incorporate solar power and informational exhibits, potentially at the Lake Express terminal that the city owns.
He said he shares concerns about how noisy the turbines would be, and is worried that the turbines could harm migratory birds.
“This is one of the premier places in the state to look at waterfowl and other migratory birds,” he said.
Residents at the meeting were mixed in their views. Some raised questions about whether the project is a worthwhile use of taxpayer money. The maximum project cost, $400,000, would be financed through a federal renewable-energy and energy-efficiency grant.
But that’s still taxpayer money, said Sharon Murphy, a 25-year resident of Bay View Terrace.
“That grant is a federal grant,” she said. “It’s our money!”
Bay View resident Dianne Sinnwell prompted cheers when she said she favored the plan. “We have an opportunity to be a leader in environmental clean energy, and we ought to take advantage of this opportunity,” she said.
The city is considering 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. Ald. Tony Zielinski said another community meeting will take place after city officials have a more detailed plan.
The exact cost of the project isn’t yet known because the city hasn’t finalized its plans, but Howard said in an interview he expected it would at most take up about 10% of the block grant, or just under $600,000.
Howard said others have raised questions about why the city is taking on this project and adding wind generation at a time when the state has excess power supply.
“This is about providing clean and renewable energy for a city facility, making a sound capital investment and demonstrating a commitment to renewable energy,” he said.
The meeting took place two days after Gov. Scott Walker unveiled regulatory reform and property rights legislation that would restrict wind farm developments across the state.
Because that bill targets utility-scale turbines – those generating more than 100 kilowatts of electricity – it wouldn’t have an effect on the Milwaukee proposal, Howard said.
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