Evanston’s request for information from potential developers of a wind farm off the Northwestern University campus has brought in three responses so far, but the city is not yet ready to reveal their contents, according to Carolyn Collopy, the city’s sustainable programs coordinator.

Evanston’s request for information from potential developers of a wind farm off the Northwestern University campus has brought in three responses so far, but the city is not yet ready to reveal their contents, according to Carolyn Collopy, the city’s sustainable programs coordinator.

She made the comments at a meeting Thursday night of Evanston’s Renewable Energy Task Force, a part of Citizens for a Greener Evanston. The meeting featured a number of presentations about the group’s proposal to develop a 40-turbine wind farm seven miles offshore that would be visible to the naked eye from the city’s beaches on clear days and would generate an estimated 200 megawatts of power, or enough to meet the needs of about 50,000 homes.

It was decidedly a “pro-wind” panel, including a bird conservationist, Judy Pollock, representing Audubon of the Chicago Region, who said the turbines would not be a huge threat to birds, so long as they are sited in a place that would not disturb the habitats of water fowl.

Jonathan Nieuwsma, business development director of Heston Wind, a consulting company specializing in wind energy solutions, gave a technical presentation about wind energy to demonstrate why the proposed wind farm in Lake Michigan makes sense for Evanston.

“We have better wind in Lake Michigan than the best wind inland, such as North Dakota,” he declared. The wind speed on the lake, he added, is about three times faster than on land in the Chicago area. Just doubling the wind speed, he said, provides eight times the power, and doubling the size of the turbine produces four times the power.

Evanston architect Nathan Kipnis, a co-chair of the task force, noted that municipalities across the lake, such as Ludington, Mich., are hampered by the depth of the water off their shores, compared to Evanston, where the water is reasonably shallow seven miles offshore. One of the panelists, however, suggested that freezing of the water in the winter might present an engineering hurdle.

Several of the panelists indicated they were looking forward to reviewing the contents of the three responses to the city’s request for information, as that would give a better indication of the feasibility of the project. Even under the most optimistic scenario, however, they noted, an active wind farm would not likely be operational before 2018 because of the many local, state, and federal agencies that would be involved in the approval process.

In the audience Thursday, but not making presentations, were State Rep. Robyn Gabel and Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl.

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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7 Comments

  1. Wind farms

    Has anyone considered the economics of this?

    It is estimated that wind turbines in water cost four times land based. Land based turbines are not competitive with other conventional sources without large subsidies.

    It may be green but who will pay for this?

    Taxpayers!

  2. 2018…no problem

    We will likely be thoroughly fed up by then with the martial law, petroleum rationing, food riots and hyper-inflation and so will greatly appreciate that bit of good news.  

    It will come on-line right before we start eating each other! 

    1. Shoe Throwing

      Nice comment…….Fortunately our fore-fathers and mothers didnt share your outlook on life. 

  3. The Economics of Wind Farms

    Your question, Vito, is a good one, and the answer is "yes," someone has considered the economics of this. There is  a detailed cost analysis on the greenerevanston.org website.

    This would not be a City of Evanston project, as the land for the proposed wind farm is under the jurisdiction of the State of Illinois. A private developer would be the responsible party, taking the risk and reaping the hoped-for profits. Presumably there would be royalty payments to Evanston, particularly if the transmission lines come ashore at the city.

    In addition, there would be jobs generated during the construction process. In other parts of the world, wind farms have been a tourist attraction as well. Although one would barely be able to see the turbines from Evanston, there could be boats that take tourists out to see the turbines up close. We might even see lower electric rates for Evanstonians, although no one is promising that yet.

    Essentially, the request for information is just a first step to see if any private developers are interested in taking the risk. If the numbers don’t make sense, developers will not be likely to take the risk. But there’s no reason to anticipate a financial liability for the taxpayers.

    1. Economics of Wind Turbines (cont)

      Charles,

      Thanks to Bill Smith I found some rather meager, not detailed, information in the report. Not an easy site to navigate.

      Nowhere is there mention of the cost differential between land and water based wind turbines.

      Further, the mention of wind power providing 3% of US electrical energy is ignored. Once the bureaucratic hurdles are over — a decade? — , especially in a body of water with several states having authority, then it would take decades, at considerable subsidy to make up that capacity

      As far as creating jobs, most would be in China since they already have the manufacturing infrastructure (ask GE), unless there are enormous subsidies to create it here in the US. 

      The intermittent aspect is ignored.

      Batteries? As an electrical engineer I am very doubtful. Now, lithium is the current technology, 2/3 of which is supplied by China. Afghanistan?

      Last, but not least, 70% of fossil fuels go to transportation.

      It would not be Evanston without such unrealism.

      1. Wind farm faq

        Hi Vito,

        Just so others will have be able to read it for themselves, the document we’re talking about is here.

        BTW, it does briefly discuss "the intermittent aspect" on page 5 and again on pages 16-17.

        — Bill

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