Evanston aldermen kept the prospect of a Lake Michigan wind farm on the table Monday, opting to continue local research and angle for representation on a state-level wind power panel.
In a 5-2 vote, Evanston City Council agreed to follow recommendations made by a citizen committee June 20, which include pursuing grants for a wind testing station in the lake as well as a second round of citizen committee research. This research may be conducted by the current committee or by a new group of volunteers.
Ald. Jane Grover (7th) said she would not feel adequately equipped to decide whether Evanston should build turbines on the lake until she knew whether it had enough wind to run them. Information from a wind testing station would make her more certain, she said.
“I’m not interesting in participating in a wind farm race,” Grover said.
But Evanston has little choice, according to Ald. Coleen Burrus (9th).
Wind power technology is advancing rapidly, and if the city hedges its bets too long, someone else will build a wind farm on Lake Michigan first, she said.
“We need to keep a place at the table,” Burrus said. “If we’re not moving with it, we will get left behind.”
The methods of place-keeping the council approved also include pushing for representation on a proposed statewide panel to examine offshore wind power’s feasibility. Gov. Pat Quinn has yet to sign off on the panel’s creation, but if he does, Mayor Tisdahl will attempt to put an Evanston resident on it, she said.
During the citizen comment section of the meeting, Evanston resident Andrew Irvine reeled off a list of countries that are already building wind farms off their coasts: Norway, Denmark and Germany. Describing himself as “someone who will inherit the legacy of the decisions made in this room,” he encouraged the council to support the committee’s proposals.
Other residents argued that evidence has already shown a wind farm would not be an effective use of Evanston’s resources.
Joe Jaskulski, a McCormick professor and co-author of the wind committee’s minority report, calculated such a project would cost Evanston $78 million a year because producing wind energy costs much more than what Evanston consumers currently pay for power.
Ald. Don Wilson (4th) also raised concerns about cost. If Evanston were to build a wind farm in the lake, it would have to lease the lakebed from the state government.
In addition, none of the companies that responded to the city’s request for information about building a wind farm provided feasible plans, he said. In his opinion, the city should not waste resources on such an impractical project.
But maintaining discussions about wind farms costs the city nothing, said Jack Darin, another wind committee member and director of the Illinois Sierra Club.
“There are real questions about cost,” Darin said. “But if we cut this conversation short, we’re not going to answer those questions.”
Before approving the committee’s proposal, the council voted 6-0 to expand Northwestern football game parking to an extra hole on Frank Govern Memorial Golf Course. Two residents of the Evanston Terraces condominium across the street from the course spoke against the proposal, but Grover, whose ward includes the course, said she would make sure their concerns were addressed in negotiations with the University.
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