Wind turbine compromise proposed
March 16, 2011
By Michael Timm
The city of Milwaukee’s Office of Environmental Sustainability has narrowed four options down to one final proposal: it wants to build one 100-kilowatt wind turbine on the Port of Milwaukee administration building property at 2323 S. Lincoln Memorial Dr. this summer.
This is the larger of two turbines considered earlier, but at the less intrusive of two sites.
The 154-foot “silent drive” turbine manufactured by Vermont-based Northern Power is conservatively estimated to generate 109,000 kilowatt-hours annually—more than enough to completely offset the 100,240-kilowatt-hour electricity usage of the adjacent city-owned port building. This means it should actually generate revenue for the city.
The turbine will require no financing or debt, said Matt Howard, the city’s director of environmental sustainability. It would be funded by a $400,000 federal grant and approximately $200,000 in incentives from We Energies and Focus on Energy.
At a second public meeting hosted March 14 by 14th District Alderman Tony Zielinski and attended by more than 20 residents, Howard also shared information in response to concerns expressed at the packed Jan. 13 meeting.
A map generated by a third-party engineer showed that no residents or buildings would fall in the turbine’s shadow. Another map estimated the turbine’s noise levels as minimal: just 30 meters from the turbine, it’s estimated at 54 decibels; the closest homes at E. Conway and S. Superior streets fall at the edge of the 42-decibel range. A human conversation is 50 decibels; a quiet room, 35 decibels. “This thing is going to be lost in the ambient noise of the neighborhood,” Howard said.
In the February issue, the front page of the Compass showed what this turbine would look like out on the confined disposal facility (CDF), then considered a prime site due to the availability of more energetic winds. Howard and Zielinski ruled out that site for multiple reasons: the disruption of the skyline view for residents of the Bay View Terrace condo tower, the possible impact on migratory birds that use the CDF as a stopover point, and possible legal challenge over the use of this filled lakebed land for anything other than navigation or recreation.
Moving the turbine inland to the port building site significantly reduces the visual impact on the lakefront. Howard showed a photo of the downtown skyline as seen from South Shore Park; the proposed turbine was not even in the shot.
At 2011 electric rates, the turbine is expected to produce $14,000-20,000 annually. At 2011 rates, the port administration building’s annual electric bill is estimated at $13,067.
The turbine now awaits approval by the Board of Harbor Commissioners and the Milwaukee Common Council. A final decision is expected by April 25.
More info: milwaukee.gov/sustainability/WindProject.
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