Designers and engineers are looking for ways to incorporate alternative energy systems into city skylines. Renewable energy developers are looking for ways to supplement the power grids in a discreet manner in an affordable, urban-friendly way.

In New Jersey, Public Service Electric and Gas Company is working with Petra Solar in installing 200,000 solar panels mounted on residential telephone phones, on parking structures, and along highways. This project didn’t go unnoticed by the homeowners, who complained that the solar panels on top of poles make their community ugly.

Petra Solar said that once all the solar panels are installed, the system will generate 40 megawatts of power each hour for four to five hours a day, totaling 58,400 megawatt-hours a year. This would make Petra Solar the largest decentralized solar power project in the world. That is a significant amount of energy produced to augment the main power grid!

In Chicago, several companies are competing with each other to create an urban friendly alternative energy source. Balanced Wind LLC. plans to install at least 18 wind turbines on top of buildings in its city. Balance Wind LLC’s wind turbines are the least expensive on the market, costing between $7,000 and $35,000 each. A turbine weighs 600 pounds and utilizes vertical blade system that measures seven feet in diameter.

Last year, the company received a $250,000 grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and used the money to open a production plant in Chicago. Since then, Balanced Wind has developed a wind metering program in more than 300 sites across the country.

Most of its clients are office buildings, large-scale manufacturing buildings, and residential towers. Balance Wind hopes it can get the approval of Chicago. It offers the city modular wind turbine units and promises to streamline the evaluation process.

Balance Wind’s goal is to supply 20 percent of the building’s total power consumption. When placed on top of a lakefront building, a single turbine can generate at least 10,000 kilowatts a year. That would be enough power for the lighting and elevators!

Wind turbines are not new to Chicago. Aerotecture International said that it pioneered the industry in the city 15 years ago. The company’s turbines are on the rooftops of such organizations as Sloan Valve Co., Mercy Lakefront, and PepsiCo, Inc. The company also has eight installations on Jefferson Avenue, with the largest one on top of the U.S. Social Security Administration building.