Smart Energy Hub

Milwaukee is the heart of a robust cluster of energy, power and control companies. This cluster, known as the Smart Energy Hub, includes world-class energy efficiency, renewable energy, distributed generation, control technologies, and energy storage companies and university research. Wisconsin has more than 900 companies in this cluster with $38 billion in sales. This industry is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the state, and the market for energy technology is expected to expand dramatically in the new few years.

The Milwaukee Region is becoming a nationally recognized hub for green technologies. Johnson Controls is significantly expanding its research into automotive batteries and energy-efficient buildings, and the Water Council is strengthening the infrastructure needed to increase fresh water research and support the region’s many water technology companies. The Milwaukee area also is home to several companies developing energy-saving or alternative energy technologies. These include Johnson Controls, a global leader in environmental management systems for office buildings, and Ingeteam, a Spanish company that manufactures alternative energy equipment in Milwaukee’s Menomonee Valley.

More than 90 companies and regional universities collaborate through the Mid-West Energy Research Consortium (M-WERC), headquartered in the City of Milwaukee. M-WERC is focused on technology innovation; market and industry expansion; public policy support; workforce development; and organization development and strategic collaboration. M-WERC links academic research from member universities with the companies that can help transform the research into marketable products. It also supports market research to help expand export opportunities for locally made products.

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Marquette University, the Milwaukee School of Engineering and several of the region’s private-sector employers are working together to develop microgrid technologies that will be able to store renewable energy.

Milwaukee is home to several companies focused on increasing the efficiency of autos, trucks and other types of transportation. Modine Manufacturing is an international pioneer in thermal management technologies. Magnetek and Actuant have entered the market for power inverters, which are key to using the power generated by wind turbines and solar panels.

Eaton Cooper Power Systems, which produces integrated, smart-grid technologies to optimize grid performance, recently expanded its South Milwaukee facility to meet the demand for the technology.

The Milwaukee Region was selected as one of the first 12 federal Manufacturing Communities as part of the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership initiative. This designation allows areas to receive preferential consideration for federal grants and funding. Energy, power and controls is one of three targeted sectors for the region.

The Smart Energy Hub is supported by the Milwaukee Environmental Collaboration Office (ECO) as outlined in the Refresh Milwaukee and Growing Prosperity plans. ECO strives to make Milwaukee a world class eco-city. ECO develops practical solutions that improve people’s lives and the economy while working to protect and restore the natural ecosystems that support our long-term prosperity.

Milwaukee, including municipal buildings and some of the largest commercial buildings in the region, have committed to the Better Buildings Challenge, a national effort to cut energy use in commercial buildings by 20% by the year 2020.

The ME3 Sustainable Manufacturing program helps small to medium manufacturers become more economically competitive through sustainable business practices. More than 130 commercial buildings and 1,260 homes have been upgraded with energy efficient equipment since 2012 through the City’s award-winning Milwaukee Energy Efficiency program (Me2).

The City has implemented Wisconsin’s first PACE financing program for building energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements, making up to $100 million in private capital available.

The Milwaukee Shines solar program has supported growth of the solar industry through financing solutions, group purchases and supportive public policy. The program supports a growing local solar market that continues to outpace the state average rate of installations, as well as strengthening the Southeast Wisconsin solar supply chain, which includes more than 100 businesses serving the international solar market.  

industry leading the way

The Milwaukee Region is a driving force in “green” technology and innovation. Milwaukee is home to global corporations and world-class leaders in the energy technologies industry and growing green movement.  Businesses here are already leading or rapidly innovating in many areas of the “clean and green” economy, from manufacturing and transportation to energy and water:

  • Johnson Controls is making cars more fuel-efficient through advanced battery technology and making buildings “greener” through technologies and services that consume less energy, cause less pollution and use resources efficiently.
  • Rockwell Automation produces factory automation software that improves efficiency and conserves energy in manufacturing.
  • Actuant Corp. is producing systems that reduce emissions of another greenhouse gas, nitrogen oxide, from diesel truck engines.
  • Modine Manufacturing is developing hydrogen fuel cells and carbon dioxide as a refrigerant in vehicle air conditioners.
  • S.C. Johnson has received two U.S. Presidential honors in recognition of the positive environmental impact of its Greenlist™ process, used to develop household products that are more biodegradable and have a better environmental or health profile.
  • ManpowerGroup’s world headquarters in downtown Milwaukee, a former brownfield, has achieved LEED Gold Certification. The 280,000-square-foot building features an interior designed to provide direct sunlight to more than 90% of workspaces, and uses 25% less energy and 40% less water than a similar size building.
  • Quad/Graphics has registered all 10 of its core U.S. printing plants for LEED certification, aiming to be to be the first printer of its kind to have all its major manufacturing sites designated as green buildings.
  • Kohl’s Department Stores made the largest single purchase of solar panels ever in North America when it converted most of its California department stores to solar power. Kohl's has consistently been recognized with the Sustained Excellence in Green Power Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for offsetting more than 100% of the company’s electricity use with green power.
  • We Energies is committed to balancing reliability and affordability with good environmental stewardship, with plans to reduce power generation costs, reduce carbon emissions, preserve fuel diversity and maintain reliability. Two key efforts include retiring older, coal-fueled units and investing in utility-scale solar generation. We Energies has also been named one of the Top 10 Utility Green Power Programs in the nation by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Water Research & Technology

The Milwaukee Region also has one of the highest concentrations of water-related companies in the country, with more than 120 firms involved in water-related businesses. Five of the world's 11 largest water-technology companies have a major presence in southeastern Wisconsin: Veolia Water, ITT Corp., Pentair, GE Water & Process Technologies, and Siemens. The Water Council is working to align the region’s freshwater research community and water-related industries to establish Milwaukee as the global capital for freshwater research, economic development and education.

State, City & Community Environmental Initiatives

Wisconsin's State Energy Office (SEO) is committed to supporting Wisconsin's goal of generating electric power and transportation fuels from renewable resources; capturing more of the emerging bioindustry and renewable energy market; and leading the nation in groundbreaking research that will make clean energy more affordable and will create good-paying Wisconsin jobs. 

The City of Milwaukee's Environmental Collaboration Office (ECO) is working to improve Milwaukee's water quality, reduce energy consumption and stimulate economic development in the green technology sector.

Milwaukee ranks No. 12 on a list of "greenest cities" according to SustainLane, an organization that tracks the green efforts of cities. Milwaukee is among the top 10 in its use of green roofs, as noted by the industry. The Sierra Club named Highland Gardens, the Milwaukee Housing Authority’s first green development, one of America's Best New Developments. Its second green facility, Cherry Court, features a 20,000-square-foot green roof and other sustainable design features.

Milwaukee has reclaimed Wisconsin's largest brownfield, the 300-acre Menomonee Valley, producing 4,700 new jobs in more than 1 million square feet of high performance, energy efficient buildings, such as the Palermo's Pizza facility. Named one of the “Top 10 Developments in the Nation” by the Sierra Club, the Menomonee Valley project features 70 acres of wasteland converted to new greenspace, including the innovative Stormwater Park that absorbs and cleans runoff from the Valley Business Park.

Wisconsin's first "green street" was opened in the Josey Heights subdivision, located in a central city neighborhood close to downtown. This street is made of impervious materials and will absorb stormwater runoff, preventing 1 million gallons of stormwater annually from burdening the sewer system.

Racine’s North Beach has been designated one of the cleanest and safest beaches in the United States by the Washington D.C.-based Clean Beaches Council. Milwaukee’s Bradford Beach has been revitalized through a public-private partnership campaign and has joined Racine in earning “Blue Wave” certification from the Clean Beaches Council.

Milwaukee has an extensive park system that integrates that natural world with Milwaukee's built environment. The Milwaukee Park System offers trails, golf courses, botanical gardens, beaches, ice rinks, and many other amenities for residents and visitors to enjoy.   

In the last decade, Milwaukee has come to embrace its rivers as an attractive downtown amenity. The downtown Riverwalk gives citizens easy access to enjoy the Milwaukee River.

Environmental Education & Research

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Great Lakes Water Institute is the largest research center of its kind on the Great Lakes, engaging in pioneering scientific research, knowledge transfer and outreach while serving as a national center for innovative freshwater education and training. The university has also created a graduate-level School of Freshwater Sciences, the first and only of its kind in the United States.

Discovery World at Pier Wisconsin on Milwaukee's lakefront connects innovation, science and technology with exploration, the environment and Great Lakes freshwater resources through interactive exhibits and learning programs. The S/V Denis Sullivan, a 137-foot re-creation of a three-masted, 19th century Great Lakes schooner, summers next to Discovery World and serves as an educational platform and scientific research vessel.

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Center for By-Products Utilization, part of the school’s College of Engineering and Applied Science, focuses on using technology to find environmentally and economically effective uses for industrial byproducts and post-consumer waste.

The Urban Ecology Center is a neighborhood-based, environmental education community center. Its outdoor laboratory consists of 12 acres of wooded land and riparian habitat on the east bank of the Milwaukee River. The resource center and classroom, a “green” building in Riverside Park, is home to live animals, informational exhibits and user-friendly resource materials about the environment.

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