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Harnessing wind for a greener future

April 22, 2021

Upcoming project will install wind turbines on Atlanta federal building

Whether it’s from running HVAC systems, large mechanical equipment or maintaining appropriate lighting, office buildings require an enormous amount of electricity to function each year. In fact, the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that commercial facilities, which includes federal buildings, consumed an astonishing 9.4 quadrillion british thermal units (BTUs) of energy in 2019. That’s roughly 12 percent of the energy produced by utility providers that year. To help lessen the impact on the local electricity grid, Region 4 PBS is planning a project to harness the renewable power of wind at one Atlanta federal building.

On any given day, winds buzz past the Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center (SNAFC) continuously at an average of 20-50 miles per hour. Since the SNAFC is in the heart of an urban environment, a wind turbine system needs just the right size and design to maximize the amount of electricity generated while remaining economically viable.

Using the flexibility of a Utility Energy Services Contract (UESC), Region 4 PBS plans to install a system that utilizes several smaller, more compact turbines linked together in series. Each individual turbine will be composed of an advanced lightweight composite material used by the aerospace industry in the construction of satellites. Based on current estimates, the new system will generate approximately 29,480 million BTUs annually. This is a projected annual energy cost savings of more than $791,000.

In addition to the cost benefits, the new system provides several advantages over larger, more cumbersome turbines. When working at capacity, the spinning of the turbine will produce only 44 decibels of sound. That's 16 decibels quieter than a normal conversation between two people, according to the CDC. The smaller blade size in the turbines also reduces the potential impacts on birds and other wildlife when compared to large wind-powered systems.

“From both an economical and environmental perspective, adding a wind-energy system to the Sam Nunn just makes sense,” said Creshona Armwood, branch chief for Region 4 PBS’ Energy and Sustainability Branch. “This system will help us significantly reduce the amount of energy we consume from our electricity provider while saving taxpayer dollars. It’s the very definition of a win-win.”

Last Reviewed: 2021-04-22