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Evanston aldermen Monday night postponed a decision about what — if anything — the city should do to follow up on the report from its windfarm committee.

The committee report, presented by co-chairs William Siegfriedt and Nicolai Schousboe, suggested that the city should continue to research the feasibility of a windfarm project off Evanston’s Lake Michigan shoreline.

But the report outlined a wide range of financial and regulatory obstacles to such a project that made it appear that any involvement by the city — beyond cheerleading — was unlikely.

In addition several residents, speaking during the council’s public comment session, said they believe the city should stop even talking about off-shore power generation.

Top:  Windfarm committee co-chairs William Siegfriedt and Nicolai Schousboe presented the committee’s report to the City Council. Above: Windfarm opponent Carl Bova.

Carl Bova, 1322 Rosalee St., a professional engineer, said building a windfarm on the water is likely to cost three to four times as much as a similar-size project on land.

“There seems to be no direct or indirect benefit to Evanston from the project,” Bova said, and it seems unlikely it would create any significant number of new jobs here.

Jeanne Lindwall, 625 Library Place, said actions taken to support the city’s climate action plan need to make economic sense, and a windfarm in the lake couldn’t pass that test.

Barbara Janes, 802 Colfax St., said it would make more sense to retrofit housing for more energy efficiency instead.

And Barbara Sykes, 3007 Thayer St., said several European countries have stopped offshore windfarm projects because they’ve proven uneconomical.

State Rep. Robyn Gabel of Evanston has backed legislation, now sitting on Governor Quinn’s desk, that would create a Lake Michigan Offshore Wind Energy Council under the Department of Natural Resources. 

The bill includes two seats on the council for local government representatives, and Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said that, if the bill win’s the governor’s approval, she’d like to have Evanston have one of those seats.

She said that mayors in North Chicago and Waukegan are also interested in having a representative on the panel.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said he’d put the issue on the agenda for the City Council’s July 11 meeting.

Related story

Windfarm committee calls for more research

Related document

Windfarm committee report

Windarm committee minority report

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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6 Comments

  1. Windfarm Next Steps

    I attended last nights City Council meeting and presentations… I feel strongly that what may be missing or misunderstood is that  the City of Evanston does not own the lake bed – the State of Illinois does. 

    The City Council and the Mayor's Committee is wise to fully investigate this proposal (and the RFI's submitted last fall)… After all, we all use electricity and we will all likely use more in the future. (I won't even go into the details concerning coal, nuclear and diminishing global supplies of petroleum – but we all should be worried about the welfare of future generations and the carbon nightmare our generation is leaving behind)

    Sooner or later, wind farms in Lake Michigan are inevitable… If, as a community we do nothing or respond negatively to continue investigating the potential… we will lose our voice at any table or forums that will study and promulgate rules for future windfarms in the lake. It may be the State’s land, but we would benefit from receiving clean energy it would bring ensuring the energy future of Evanston and the region.

    I'm with Mayor Tisdahl – let's get one of the seats at the Lake Michigan Offshore Wind Energy Council (currently pending approval by Governor Quinn)… That is a wonderful next step for a project that will take many, many years to become a reality.  To the skeptics, I say,  just imagine the progress and innovation that will occur in that span of time!

    Respectfully submitted, Brian G. Becharas

  2. wind farm – more info needed before poll vote

    Thanks, Brian, for attending the meeting.

    I haven't voted in the poll on the wind farm because I don't have enough information to make a reasoned vote. From what I've read here (Council delays vote…) the whole thing is so vague that the poll can't convey anything more than general attitudes/prejudices about wind power or environmentalism. Though people are speculating, there are no specifics on how a windfarm would be either an asset or a liability to Evanstonians. Pollwatchers beware!

  3. Windfarm on Lake Michigan: City’s committee gets it right!

    Unfortunately, Cliff Brown probably is right that this poll will only measure people's general attitudes for/against the environmental/sustainability movement.  We don't know enough at this time to make a decision whether a specific wind farm proposal would serve the interests of Evanston residents, but if the city does not keep abreast of what is happening, it won't be prepared to make any decision about this kind of project when the time comes. 

    The dissenters last night got a lot of time from the Council and a lot of coverage in the RoundTable article and Evanston Now, but my sense (I sat through the whole meeting) is that they were using scare tactics to worry other residents who don't really know much about what is involved in building a wind farm on the Lake.  This was truly unfortunate because the committee's report was very thoughtful and dispassionate and its process gave the dissenters much time to express their objections. 

    As Brian Becharas points out, if the city does not investigate the potential of this form of renewable energy, we will lose our opportunities to influence any such development, when it occurs, which is likely at some point in the future.  Why should we be so fearful of being informed and prepared to deal with a matter like this?   I hope the Council saw the merit in the committee's recommendations and will reconvene the committee to continue its research and deliberations.

     

  4. Wind farm Proposal

    I had the opportunity to listen to a rather civil discussion on Monday Night at the city council meeting regarding the Report of the Mayors Wind Farm Committee (very thorough ) and I have also taken the time to review the report in its entirety.

    Several Observations.

    1. From those in dissent

        a.  Questions on the financial viability

        b.  Potential impact to the fragile economy of the City

        c.  Potential impact to the lake and its underlying geology

        d.  Potential impact on wild life

    All of these concerns are reasonable and need either further exploration or informing the public as to the state of the existing information available.

    2.  Committee report: it seemed pretty clear to me that the report called for the continuation of information gathering and community outreach and education. Very little or no risk to this.

     

    Whenever the limits of progress are challenged there are always those for many reasons who attempt to stop the progress. It is though those in dissent fear that progress will go unchallenged. That is rarely the case and is clearly not the direction that the Committee took in its report.

    Several questions for those in dissent:

    1.  Can you think of a good reason that the City should not take advantage of a group of resident experts (volunteers) to learn all there is to know and understand about the development of an off shore wind farm?

    2.  Is there a good reason for the City to not encourage its residents to be able to be informed as to whether an alternative source of energy (Wind Farm in the Lake) is something for us all to know?

    Lets let the process that has only just begun have a chance.

    Change is necessary and takes courage to consider. Our council consists of a thoughtful group of people who have had the strength and courage to do the right thing for the City. I hope they will encourage the continuation of the Wind Farm exploration.

    1. wind farm issues

      One question that has been ignored is how you get 200MW of power from the wind farm to the grid. The closest connection would be near church St and Edens. that is 5 to 7 miles and 200MW is a lot of power. To minimize line loss that power would normally be transported at high voltages: 100KV or more. You do not bury that. How would residents of Evanston and Skokie appreciate high voltage towers running down their neighborhoods?  if anyone has examples of high voltage lines (100KV and greater) being buried please let me know.

      Calling them NIMBYs is not an answer.

  5. Offshore wind ecological impacts

    I also made a citizen comment at the June 20 meeting and it is not reflected in this article.  As of 7/26/11 my  comment remains very definitely misstated in the City's June 20 Meeting Minutes. The major point of my comment was that we do not know the ecological impacts of offshore wind in freshwater.  We have made huge and costly mistakes with the Great Lakes in the past and many of these have caused serious and costly damage which could have been prevented, had we studied the ecological impacts first.  There is no excuse for not doing the science first and thereby taking well founded measures to minimize the damage we will do by putting windfarms in the Great Lakes.  Those who say there will be no damage, or little significant damage must back up this statement with references to real research.. The relevance of any such research should be examined by the appropriate scientists as there is only one freshwater windfarm in the world to date and it is practically brand new.  My full comment from the 6/20 meeting follows:

    Joan Rothenberg, 1575 Ashland Avenue.

    "This is an oversimplification.  But the main points can’t be denied.

    Nearly 20% of the world’s surface fresh water is contained in the Great Lakes.  Fresh water is an increasingly precious resource the world over. This is no small thing.  Wars are being fought over access to fresh water.  This fact isn’t going away.  We will feel the impact here, one way or another.  As people who live on the Great Lakes, it is our job to protect them, not only because of the growing preciousness of the water, but because the Lakes are “beautiful wild things”* (*Teddy Roosevelt, A Book Lover’s Holidays in the Open, 1916) not only for us, but for the unborn.

    We DO NOT KNOW the impact of wind farms on bodies of fresh water.   We do not know the impact on benthic (lake bottom), pelagic (open water) and coastal ecosystems.  There is only one fresh water wind farm in the world and it is practically brand new. We do know from the European continent’s 20-30 year experiment with off shore salt water wind farms that there are important unresolved technological and economic issues from which we could learn.  But, we don’t know the ecological impact in fresh water. We need to do our homework first.  For a glance at one among many many possible examples of hazards resulting from not doing our homework first, consider this.  Had we done our homework first before building the Welland Canal, maybe we could have found a way to protect our Great Lakes from the 180+ invasive species it (and other well intentioned works of humans) allowed in…the invasive species that have killed the native fish which were a fantastic natural and abundant food resource for people. Undeniably, the Welland was an exciting feat of engineering typical of our American Spirit, the same spirit that, at least in part, drives our wish to harness the wind over the Great Lakes.

    Should we, perhaps, lead the way by encouraging the appropriate agencies to support a small scale ecological impact study of freshwater wind farms first, before plunging ahead and opening this treasure to entities who may have little or no concern about what actually happens to the many precious aspects of the Great Lakes watershed?"

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