Evanston aldermen peppered two would-be wind farm developers with questions Monday night and then voted to meet again to consider who should be on a special committee to further research the concept.

The two developers proposed different technology solutions and different models for what the city would have to pay to place a renewable energy generating system out in Lake Michigan.

Luke Townsend of Off Grid Technologies

Luke Townsend, the corporation counsel for Off Grid Technologies, said the next step for the project would be to conduct a feasibility study for $1.8 million that the city would need to pay for.

He suggested creating a city-owned utility to run the plant, and noted that Springfield, Illinois’ capital city, operates its own electric utility.

Townsend, who said he lives in Evanston and has a son at Chute Middle School, said his firm would like to partner with the city to build the project.

Townsend said Off Grid hopes to build a plant to construct the magnetic levitation turbines that his company is proposing at a site on Chicago’s southeast side that would also supply the systems to other projects throughout the Great Lakes region because of its good access to water and rail transportation systems.

He said 60 companies around the world have been developing the vertical-turbine magnetic levitation technology, but conceded that so far only small scale prototypes have been built.

Lyle Harrison of Mercury Wind Energy

Lyle Harrison, the chief executive officer of Mercury Wind Energy, said his firm is prepared to cover the cost of feasability studies, which he estimated would cost $1.5 million.

Harrison, who’s proposing a more conventional turbine design, said a European manufacturer of the turbines is talking about building a plant in Illinois that would create 500 to 1,000 permanent jobs, but that if that project fell through, the turbines could be sourced from any of three plants owned by other manufacturers in the U.S. — with the equipment most easily delivered by rail from a plant in Colorado.

Harrison, an Evanston resident, said under his model his company would own the wind farm and would sell the power generated either to customers along the lakefront or to Commonwealth Edison.

He said the benefit to Evanstonians would be cheaper electric power costs — a savings he estimated to be about $100 a year to the average homeowner.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said she wanted more information from the city’s finance staff to advise the council about whether the proposals make sense — how much residents would save and how much the project would cost the city.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said he wanted more specifics about financing from both developers — especially details about what they’re looking for from the city.

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, proposed moving forward, as City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz proposed, to name a review committee with two representatives each from the city’s Environment Board, the Utilities Commission and the environmental group Citizens for a Greener Evanston.

But Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said she wanted to take time to think more about the composition of the review committee and search more broadly for people to be on it. She proposed referring the issue of the committee’s composition to the council’s Rules Committee, which holds its next meeting on Dec. 6. And the aldermen voted unanimously to do that.

Related story

More study planned for wind farm concept

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Wind farm proposals not worth the time

    I disagree with Wally B’s wind farm committee recommendation. They are all strong wind farm advocates.

    It’s important to get a few citizens who are ambivalent about an Evanston wind farm on the committee.

    Also, it’s my understanding that these two developers have never been involved in the completion of a wind farm project. Mercury just formed last year. And Off the Grid’s website doesn’t advertise any of its completed projects, and it’s not clear what projects, if any, it has completed.

    Off the Grid is recommending untested and unproven magnetic levitation turbines, and that Evanston would have to foot a $1.8 million feasibility study. That should be a deal killer right there, considering Evanston’s severe and ongoing financial problems.

    It concerns me greatly that Evanston, which publicly announced it was looking for wind farm proposals, only got these two. There are experienced wind farm developers outside the Chicago area that must have known about Evanston’s desire to build a wind farm but yet chose not to even make a proposal. In this economic climate where companies are hungry for business, that tells the whole story.

    The city is wasting it’s time and resources with these two developers. The fact that no experienced wind farm developer bothered to make a proposal tellls me they know this idea is not doable in the present economic climate.

    And to suggest the wind farm committee be comprised of members of the Evanson  Environment Board, the Utilities Commission and the environmental group, Citizens for a Greener Evanston, is simply asking for a skewed report.

    My hunch is Wally B and other loud wind farm advocates are driving this project, and want to see it get done no matter what the cost and risk would be.

    I am losing faith in Wally B and can’t help to wonder why Evanston has been going through so many city managers. The City Council needs some backbone and take charge.

    And when I say take charge, I don’t mean approve more costly projects such as a new 311 call center and raising fees and taxes.

    1. Wind Energy

      Good for you Anonymous, Al!

      I am a transplanted Evanstonian living in So. California.  Perhaps those who support the wind-energy would benefit from a brief trip to the Palm Desert area where there are hundreds of these giant fans.  So many of them are NOT working. They need constant monitoring and upkeep at taxpayer expense.  I sure would suggest you guys re-think the wind farms.   The first question from the wise taxpayer should be: "What’s the downside to the project?"  Our electric bills are probably among the highest in the nation.

      Is the thought that because Chicagoland is "windy" the wind farm will be a boon?  Well, ya’ got a lake full of water, too, and nobody is "harnessing water power" for energy.  

      Maybe you could check with Germany.  They have an awesome solar energy program that generates so much electric power the homeowners usually RECEIVE money each month instead of getting a bill.  That would seem to be a wiser use of the initial outlay of  $$ to get it rolling.  Also, Germany has a LOT of bad weather so cloudy or wintry overcast days are not the issue. 

      Keep in mind that the wind farms are going to be a constant source of spending…just to keep them going,  I think at least one-third of ours are ALWAYS non operating.  Now with our economy in the red and almost bankrupt here in Calif., it may now be even more.  

      In fact, no one here in So. Calif. ever talks about the wind farms any more.
      From the little I have been reading about your  plans there, it seems that someone sort of "got the idea" like the next "green" project du jour.   I can’t believe that a sharp professor at NU wouldn’t have given you all the "heads up" on the downside of wind farms. 

    2. Feasibility Study

      I would be willing to do a feasibility study which would conclude that the project is not economically feasible.  I will only charge $1.7 million for this service.  That will save the city $100K on the price of the study and would prevent hundreds of millions (if not billlions) to be wasted on the wind farm. 

    3. Old technologies for new purposes

      Reviewing the technologies in regards to the wind farm,  I can’t help notice that the magnetic levitation is a concept that has been tested and now being expanded upon.  Think  about the train system in Shanghi.   They only go, what, maybe 300+ miles an hour and now is a model for what rail systems are to become. 

      Darn those Wright brothers for wanting fly.  What was Nasa thinking, creating a space vessel to go to the moon. 

      Off Grid Technologies is on to something and that somthing is about to assist us all by evolving the way we live, while we still can live.

  2. New isn’t bad.

    While I too find it odd that only two companies submitted, I wouldn’t write them off just for being new to the business. Unfortunately (for us and the environment) this is a relatively new field. Paying the million seems risky. I for one would rather have the money go to the feasibility of wind turbines than a call center. 
    But this is worth the time. We need to think about the future as well as the right now. 
  3. Wind farm Proposal

    I had the opportunity to sit through the wind farm presentation at last night’s council meeting and left feeling that the Council was prudent in wanting to review and discuss further the make up of the Special Committee.

    The other thing that I believe occurred last night was that the City showed greater interest in learning about the possibility of a wind farm in the lake, understanding the economics, the benefits, etc.

    It think thismall move forward will result in not only in a dramatically increased interest in the possibility, both pro and con of a wind farm, but more importantly we will receive more interest from the wind farm development sector.

    I hope that is the result.

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