Wind turbines start spinning at S.C. Johnson

S.C. Johnson & Son Inc. commissioned two wind turbines Tuesday that are helping it rely almost entirely on its own power.

The company built two turbines in the Village of Mount Pleasant, near its largest global factory, known as Waxdale.

The turbines are 415 feet tall, equivalent to those at utility-scale wind farms that have been built in Wisconsin in recent years. They can generate about 15% of the energy for the factory, which is roughly the size of 36 football fields.

S.C. Johnson has been moving to rely more on renewable energy as part of its pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions from its operations, under the U.S. Envirionmental Protection Agency’s Climate Leaders program.

The Waxdale factory began using renewable energy when the company built a generator that’s powered with landfill gas. A second generator burns natural gas.

The late Sam Johnson, chairman emeritus of S.C. Johnson & Son, had led the fight against construction of new coal-fired power plants in Oak Creek – taking to the streets of Racine to lead a rally against coal.

Johnson lost that fight when the state Supreme Court approved construction of the $2.3 billion We Energies coal plant, but the company has continued to move to rely on its own power.

“He would be thrilled,” Johnson’s son, Fisk Johnson, said Tuesday. Johnson is chairman and chief executive of the privately held consumer products manufacturer, maker of Glade, Pledge, Scrubbing Bubbles, Shout and other products.

“These two windmills have been a personal passion of mine,” he said. Not only do they help the company supply, on average, all of its own power needs, he said, but added they are “a giant visual reminder of the commitment we’ve made as a company to environmental progress.”

During a ceremony Tuesday morning, Fisk Johnson pressed a button on a laptop computer plugged in inside a tent beneath the turbines. That button sent a message to Vensys, the Germany-based turbine manufacturer, to connect the turbines to the power grid.

They began turning, slowly at first, but then more robustly. The turbines can generate enough power to supply about 700 homes.

Nodding to his mother, Imogene Powers Johnson, he said he was dedicating the turbines to his parents.

EPA regional administrator Susan Hedman credited the company for its work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and its global sustainability programs.

The two Mount Pleasant turbines will “add a bit more wind to Windex,” she said.

S.C. Johnson is the third wind project to be built this year — all of which are being led by private companies rather than electric utilities. The others are the two-turbine Cashton Greens wind farm near La Crosse and the six turbines being erected in Verona by medical records software developer Epic Systems Inc.

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