Some of the smartest people in Evanston sit on the windfarm committee, a group appointed by Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and approved by City Council to evaluate two proposals to develop a windfarm about seven miles out in Lake Michigan. The members who attended the May 19 meeting seemed to have come to a consensus that neither those two proposals, submitted by Mercury Wind Energy and Off Grid, merited further analysis by City staff or City Council. Their report will be completed by mid-June, and they plan to present it to City Council on June 20.
What their report might also contain is a suggestion that the City continue to pursue the development of an offshore wind farm, along with cautions about doing so. If the Council’s decision is to continue to pursue an off-shore wind farm, we hope that these intelligent and thoughtful men and women will continue in some fashion to advise the City.
Retired Mayor Lorraine Morton signed that Mayors Climate Protection Agreement several years ago, essentially pledging that the community of Evanston would follow the Kyoto protocols and reduced its carbon footprint 14 percent by the year 2013. Using energy from renewable sources would help us meet that goal. The question whether a source of that renewable energy should be an offshore windfarm is still in play – and should be for the foreseeable future.
There is much to be considered in contemplating an offshore windfarm: In the conception stage, we must deal candidly with aesthetics and pollution. Is a windfarm, as one resident commented at the May 19 meeting, an “industrial installation” or will it be, as another resident suggested, a landmark in the lake? Given that “water is the next oil,” is it wise to put any large construction in the lake? How – and how much – will the noise and wind from the turbines affect fish and bird, and how much will the bases of the towers affect the lake current?
What will the neighbors say?
In the building stage there are mechanics and materials: building the bases for the towers, using the proper materials, ferrying materials and crews to the worksite and maintaining the turbines and towers, particularly on an ice-bound, wind-whipped lake.
Transmission of the power from the windfarm to the community must be planned carefully. Is there a nearby transformer station that could accept the power, or might there have to be high or underground power lines cutting across the City?
And then there is the cost – fantastically prohibitive at this point, it would seem.
But time is on our side. It is likely that many of these problems will be solvable by the time the City makes its decision.
No doubt, Evanston is committed to sustainability. Depending upon petroleum products and nuclear energy is an untenable way to face the future.
This community is fortunate to have many great logical, scientific minds to help us analyze one of the most important questions for our future. Can we grant them tenure?