U.S.: Evanston Approves Nation’s First Offshore Wind Farm

The Chicago area, already known for its green roofs and other eco-initiatives, may have made history earlier this week. In the northern lake suburb of Evanston, the City Council unanimously voted to move forward on a proposal to place 40 wind turbines on Lake Michigan, reports FOX News Chicago, putting the region in the running to have the first offshore wind farm in the United States.

Supporters say that the wind farm would generate enough sustainable wind energy to power 40,000 homes (more than the number of homes in Evanston today). Eventually the town could reap more benefits by selling wind power to neighboring communities on Chicago’s North Shore.

The next step is to have developers submit their ideas on how to build the on-the-water windmills, which are estimated to cost $10 million each.

According to a report by Citizens for a Greener Evanston, a local advocacy group, the average annual winds are 18 mph along the coast and pick up speed towards the targeted construction site, six to nine miles off the shoreline. Experts say at this distance the 300-feet-tall turbines would not be highly visible from land because of the haze and pollution over Lake Michigan.

"In the vicinity of the lake in the summertime, we frequently can’t see more than three miles," Robert Owen, Jr., a Madison, Wis., engineer who has studied wind energy in Lake Michigan told FOX, adding that in perfect weather the turbines would only be visible as "specks."

Other communities trying to be America’s first, such as Cape Cod, Massachusetts, have run into battles with landowners upset about their views being disrupted. Concerns over the environment and the ecology of fish and bird species, navigational safety for boats, and noise are additional roadblocks in this community and in others considering building turbines on the water.

But it appears this isn’t the first time the Chicago area has dabbled with the idea of a wind farm. About four or five years ago Chicago officials started discussions, but the talks ended over the obstruction that the turbines might cause to migratory birds, Larry Merritt, a spokesman for the Department of Environment told the Chicago Tribune.


By Megan Mollman, Housing Watch, www.housingwatch.com