Quantcast

City gets three nibbles for wind farm

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 stations and business-oriented magazines.

Editors’ Picks