Assured that talk is cheap, Evanston aldermen Monday night voted to let local activists keep talking about building a windfarm in Lake Michigan.

The proposal, approved on a 5-2 vote with two aldermen absent, authorizes the mayor to seek to have an Evanston resident appointed to a state offshore wind energy panel that would be established if Gov. Pat Quinn signs a bill now on his desk.

It also authorizes city staff to seek grant funding for a possible floating meteorological station in the lake that could determine the strength and consistency of offshore winds.

And it authorizes formation of a new windfarm committee composed of citizen volunteers, or continued life for an existing committee, to continue researching the windfarm concept.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said the city should drop the windfarm idea.

“The city has no authority to authorize any windfarm project in the lake,” Wilson said. That decision, he added, is going to be made in Springfield. “We might as well be talking about building a windfarm in Canada. We don’t have that power.”

Wilson said city staff has plenty of other work to do. “If staff is going to be preparing grant applications, I want them doing it for the water plant and other current needs,” Wilson argued. “The world should know that we’re open to the windfarm concept. But that’s it.”

But Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, said further research is needed to determine whether a winfarm is appropriate for Evanston.

“I don’t know whether I’m for or against a windfarm, because I don’t have enough information yet. That makes it our duty to go get more information,” Grover added.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said she was concerned about opening up the lake to private development.

She said the state is getting lots of energy from land-based windfarms in central Illinois and costs for a windfarm in the lake seem to be prohibitively higher.

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, said she was concerned about costs — but that if it was just the time of the city’s sustainability coordinator, “who’s supposed to be doing that sort of stuff anyway,” then she didn’t believe that further windfarm research would impose any additional costs.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said most of the cost has been the time of the sustainability coordinator, Catherine Hurley. “We have no additional staff dollars available beyond her salary to do it,” Bobkiewicz said, “But there are only so many hours in the day and week. And we do have other projects for her to work on. So it becomes a matter of priorities.”

Fiske and Wilson voted against the proposal. Aldermen Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, and Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, didn’t attend the meeting.

The vote followed a lengthy public comment session in which roughly two dozen people spoke on the windfarm issue. Speakers — many of whom were members of the windfarm committee — were divided on the issue but most spoke in favor of continued research on the subject.

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Poll: Should city drop windfarm project

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Evanston is spinning its windmills

    The sustainability coordinator, a newly created position that pays $71,000, appears to be spending all her time working on the windfarm project that will never see the light of day. The city is spinning its windmills, wasting time and money.

    And yet five of our aldermen vote to continue the pointless work. (Where were Tendam and Wynne – it seems Tendam is absent a lot).

    The aldermen's vote is a display of misguided priorities. 

    The City Council really really needs to get to work on the local economic crisis. Most everything this Council does is antithetical to the problem at hand. 

    Why did the Council spend about $1 million and hire 20 union employees for a 311 Call Center while at the same time close the branch libraries and talk about closing Chandler because it allegedly did not meet the city's recreational priorities?

    Why is the Council exploring the option of aldermen and other part-time city employees of qualifying for a pension when the current pension debt is sucking the city's resources dry?

    Why did the Council decide to increase the duplicative Evanston Township Assessor's Office 80 percent in last year's budget when it really should have eliminated the needless government office. In fact, there is a proposal in this year's budget to give the Township Assessor deputy a RAISE!!!!!

    Why did the Council decide to create a new position – the sustainability coordinator – in these hard economic times? And now that coordinator is devoting all her time on the windfarm project that won't go anywhere.

    I could go on. But one last why.

    Why should we vote for any of these aldermen in the next election?


    1. Spinning Windmills and other things

      Dear Anonymous Al,

      I am one of the volunteers who has spent + 4 years involved with the Citizens' Greener Evanston who have created a very useful Climate Action Plan – the former and current Sustainability Coordinators audited all of the carbon sources in Evanston and assigned a value to them to help mitigate a real problem (hope it's not too hot for you today – it will get worse if we all don't all think globally and act locally!).

      One of the Task Forces I serve (for more than 3 years now) is the Renewable Energy Task Force who have proposed (among other things) the windfarm off our shores.  There is lots of good information at our website for you to peruse – one is entitled: "Evanston_Offshore_Wind_Farm_FAQ_.pdf" I hope you will take the time to read this document.  It dispels many myths and mis-information. 

      It is important to note that The Climate Action Plan and Windfarm Proposal / Study / FAQ etc (and lots of other hard work in pursuit of sustainability) was completed by hundreds of people donating thousands of hours for the commonweal of Evanston… Taxpayers paid nothing.

      In regard to Evanston's Sustainability Coordinator's role in Evanston's efforts to curb climate change – her office delivers many multiples in cost savings and grants (both submitted and received in many program areas)… everything about that position's function is a net gain for taxpayers.  To suggest that she is "devoting all her time to the windfarm" is nonsense!

      You seem to have lots ideas concerning lots of issues in Evanston… I hope you will consider volunteering or running for office.

      Respectfully submitted, Brian G. Becharas


  2. Solar Panels

    Solar panels are much more efficient and less costly, less ugly, they don't make noise, they don't kill birds or fry fish, and they benefit the individual homeowner rather than the corporation that builds them. Many homeowners with solar panels are able to sell energy back to electric companies, thereby profiting from their installation.

  3. Go for the real thing

    Instead of playing around with the energy fad de jour, let's go for the real thing—pyrometalic reactors using thorium.  We can save a lot of money, supply a major portion of the northshore and help the enviornment.

    Lets get real about energy instead of playing around.

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