Small projects have wind in their sails
From an article by Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Companies working toward energy independence
The stalled state of wind farm development in Wisconsin has led to little development activity for large wind farms.
But on a much smaller scale, wind projects are moving ahead as companies fulfill commitments to environmental and energy independence.
In western Wisconsin, Organic Valley Cooperative and Gundersen Lutheran Health System have broken ground on a two-turbine wind project that will generate enough power to offset the energy use for Organic Valley’s corporate headquarters and distribution center, as well as meet 5% of Gundersen Lutheran’s energy needs.
In southeastern Wisconsin, S.C. Johnson & Son has proposed building two or three turbines that would generate 1.5 megawatts of power each. If the plans proceed on schedule, the turbines would be erected next year.
The co-op and health care system project, Cashton Greens, calls for roads and foundations for the $9.9 million project to be completed this fall, with the turbines scheduled for installation in spring 2012, said Cecil Wright, Organic Valley’s director of sustainability.
When completed, the turbines will generate about 12 million kilowatt-hours a year.
It’s a boost to a brand that has the word “organic” in its name, but this is about more than conveying a green image, Wright said.
“One of the main reasons we did is that it’ll help manage and fix our costs,” Wright said. “We’re not just doing it because it’s a nice thing to do. The higher the price of electricity goes up, the better we’ll do at paying off our project quicker, and that’ll be a profit center for us,” he said.
“In addition to providing renewable energy to Cashton and Organic Valley, the wind turbines will serve as a ‘living lab’ for research and education for students at Western Technical College,” Wright said.
Windmills and more
At S.C. Johnson, the wind proposal is the latest in a string of distributed generation and renewable energy initiatives for the company, which uses landfill methane gas to generate energy for the factory. The Waxdale factory will be able to produce 100% of its electricity on-site, with 60% of it from renewable sources, said Christopher Beard, S.C. Johnson spokesman.
The reasons for the projects are many – everything from a desire for energy security to a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions linked to energy use and a platform to showcase their brands as environmentally friendly.
“Both of those projects show that customers are demanding and making clean energy happen,” said Lee Cullen, a Madison energy lawyer who has been working with clients in the wind-energy sector. “There’s a groundswell of renewable energy production that’s happening because people understand its importance.”
Beard said the S.C. Johnson wind project “helps us address the fact that consumers are asking for products that are green and products that have been produced in a sustainable way. Manufacturing our products using on-site sustainable energy helps meet that consumer demand,” Beard said.
Projects to erect wind turbines and solar panels needs to be complemented with efforts to slash energy waste from a company’s buildings and production processes, said Tom Eggert, who runs the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council.