MILWAUKEE, Wis., May 9, 2003 – A 10-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system, made possible by a We Energies donation, is now in operation as part of the roof on the new education and visitors facility at Schlitz Audubon Nature Center (SANC) in Bayside, Wisconsin.
This renewable energy resource is one of the largest photovoltaic systems in Wisconsin, providing 10 to 20 percent of the electricity for the center’s new building. SANC is holding its dedication ceremonies from 4 – 6 p.m. today.
“A photovoltaic system of this size is extremely economical from an environmental perspective since it doesn’t generate greenhouse gasses, pollution or waste. At the same time, it costs more than traditional energy sources,” said Michael Utzinger, professor of architecture at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and sustainable design consultant for The Kubala Washatko Architects, Inc., which designed the new center.
“When We Energies stepped up to provide the financial resources that enabled Schlitz Audubon to install a much larger photovoltaic system than ever imagined, it created a strong business partnership that truly ‘walks the environmental talk,’ so to speak.”
The center’s photovoltaic system uses semiconductor technology to convert sunlight directly into electricity. This new system is a thin material that lies flat on the building’s roof, simply adding darker shading to the roof. This is in contrast to larger, vertical mounted PV panels most people associate with solar powered buildings.
The center’s new system is simple and quiet, requires no moving parts, and has a set of solid state inverters to convert the direct current produced by the PV array into alternating current used by the building. When electricity produced by the photovoltaic cells exceeds the electricity required by the building, the excess electricity flows into the We Energies electric grid for use by other customers.
Photovoltaic systems come in a vast array of sizes, ranging from a single solar cell to power a calculator or a single module (containing multiple cells) to power a light; to multiple modules to power a water pump or a home; to large arrays of modules to provide industrial-scale power.
Last year, upon hearing that the SANC planned to use state-of-the-art green building design criteria for a new education and visitors facility, We Energies recognized an opportunity to support a worthwhile project while creating awareness about the potential use of solar photovoltaic generation to provide onsite generation of electricity.
“This unique nature center just 15 minutes north of downtown Milwaukee educates 37,000 school children each year,” said Carl Siegrist, senior renewable energy strategist for We Energies.
“The solar PV system which we donated will not only provide a significant amount of renewable energy for SANC, but its location on the facility’s building-integrated solar roof will be visible to the more than 70,000 visitors annually. We’re proud to be able to help SANC promote an appreciation and understanding of environmentally sustainable development and the role of renewable energy.”
We Energies has committed to target five percent of its retail electric energy sales to come from renewable energy sources by 2011. The company will also spend sixty million dollars over a 10-year period to reach this target, subject to regulatory approval.
“The idea of sustainability, when taken seriously and with commitment, can have powerful and positive effects on the built and natural world,” said Elizabeth Cheek, SANC executive director. “Thanks to the support of We Energies and our shared vision of the importance of renewable energy and sustainability, we will have sustainable building that does the utmost to preserve our natural sanctuary and unburden future use of the center.”
We Energies, the principal utility subsidiary of Wisconsin Energy Corp. (NYSE: WEC), serves more than one million electric customers and more than 970,000 natural gas customers throughout Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Visit the company’s Web site at www.we-energies.com. Learn about Wisconsin Energy Corp. by visiting www.WisconsinEnergy.com
Schlitz Audubon Nature Center promotes an appreciation, understanding and stewardship of our natural heritage through environmental education and sanctuary preservation. A non-profit, locally supported organization, the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center is situated on 185 acres along the shores of Lake Michigan. Learn more about the center at www.sanc.org.