Council to test wind farm interest

Evanston aldermen Tuesday voted to see whether whether any developers are interested in building a wind farm off the city’s Lake Michigan shore.

The aldermen approved a staff plan to issue a request for information — asking developers to describe how, and under what financial terms, they might build a cluster of perhaps 40 wind turbines roughly seven miles east of the Northwestern University campus, and how they would navigate the complex process of winning regulatory approval for the project.

As described by project proponents, the wind farm could generate enough electricity to power all the homes in Evanston — though not enough to supply all the city’s commercial users.

The vote by the aldermen was unanimous, although Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, delivered a long list of concerns about the project that she said she’d need answers to before she’d support moving the project beyond the talking stage.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz described the wind farm concept as "uncharted territory" for the city, and said the RFI process is designed to answer questions that Fiske and other resident have about its possible impact.

Evanston architect Nate Kipnis, a member of the city’s Environment Board, said the winds across the lake are ideal for wind turbines.

Kipnis and other environmental activists believe the wind farm project could be key to reducing the local level of hydrocarbon emissions that contribute to global warming.

But Libby Hill of the Evanston North Shore Bird Club said more research needs to be done to make sure the turbines wouldn’t be a hazard to migrating birds.

And Bill Schwimmer of 1319 Greenwood St. said he opposes any development on the lakefront. A windfarm, he said, would be "an artificial intrusion into the last natural environment we have in these parts."

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