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Governor signs windfarm bills

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Gov. Pat Quinn has signed a bill sponsored by Evanston lawmakers to create a council to study offshore wind energy projects in Lake Michigan and another that clears the way for more wind energy projects across the state.

Gov. Pat Quinn has signed a bill sponsored by Evanston lawmakers to create a council to study offshore wind energy projects in Lake Michigan and another that clears the way for more wind energy projects across the state.

“These bills give the state additional tools to further enhance Illinois’ growing renewable energy industry,” Quinn said. “A thriving green energy sector will further strengthen Illinois’ economy, create jobs and boost our economic recovery.”

House Bill 1558, sponsored by Rep. Robyn Gabel and Sen. Jeff Schoenberg of Evanston, creates the Lake Michigan Offshore Wind Energy Advisory Council within the Department of Natural Resources.

The council will review the potential for wind energy projects in the waters of Lake Michigan. It will be chaired by the director of the IDNR and will be made up of representatives from state agencies and organizations that include environmental, tourism, education and energy entities.

"Offshore wind power provides our communities an incredible opportunity for clean and efficient energy, and helps our state achieve its energy independence goals,” Gabel said. “With this unique opportunity, however, comes new challenges, and it is important that we undertake this process to set the right guidelines from the start. I would like to thank Governor Quinn for signing this into law."

After examining wildlife impact, protected habitats and recreational uses of Lake Michigan, the council will identify locations that would be appropriate for offshore wind development. The council will present its recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly by June 30, 2012. The law goes into effect immediately.

Advocates of a windfarm off Evanston's Lake Michigan shore have been pushing to have an Evanston resident named to the advisory council.

Quinn Sunday also signed House Bill 1487, sponsored by Rep. Chad Hays (R-Catlin) and Sen. Mike Frerichs (D-Champaign). The new law creates the Renewable Energy Production District Act, which allows county boards to establish renewable energy districts or wind farm districts. Under the new law, such a district would receive approval through a voter referendum.

House Bill 1487 goes in effect immediately.

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