On the street level in Reno, it may be easy to forget that every time the breeze blows off the Truckee River and past the 17-story City Hall, the town is quietly saving money.
But the $11,000 the city is expected to save each year from wind power will be a friendly reminder. Installed in early June, the two 1.5-kilowatt wind turbines on City Hall also make Reno one of the first cities in the nation to capture and generate energy from wind from the rooftop of a city hall building.
These small-scale machines are just two of nine turbines to be installed throughout Reno using $997,000 of the city's Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG). The grant totaled $2,142,800 and was awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
"We did a preliminary 3-D wind map of the urban environment, and City Hall is in one of our natural wind tunnels," says Jason Geddes, Environmental Services Administrator for the City of Reno. "It is right off the Truckee River, which is the main river in the city and creates a wind tunnel."
According to Geddes, the turbines on City Hall were installed under a net-metering agreement with the local utility, NV Energy, but all of the power will be consumed on site.
The turbines are also designed to reduce noise. Both have a noise level of less than 35 decibels, which is relative to a refrigerator hum, according to a decibel level comparison chart.
Though the city is using a variety of manufacturers, Geddes says they are working with local companies, such as Briggs Electric and Independent Power Corporation, to select and install the wind turbines. APS Energy Services is managing all of the city's energy projects.A third turbine will be added to City Hall this summer, Geddes says, and two have also been installed at the city's downtown parking gallery. Geddes says these were designed more artistically to improve the aesthetic appeal. Of the remaining turbines to be installed, two will go to the waste water facility and two will be placed in a city park to power lighting at recreational fields.
Altogether, the wind projects are expected to generate 89,480 kilowatt hours a year. They are part of the $19 million the city is dedicating to new energy technology, which also includes solar and energy-efficiency projects.
These projects combined are expected to reduce traditional energy use by 25 percent and save $1 million a year. The total predicted energy reduction amounts to 6.5 million kilowatt hours per year, Geddes says.
So far, Geddes says the people in Reno have been responding very positively. "Whenever the wind starts blowing and the turbines start moving, people call me," Geddes says.