City Council and some Evanston residents support a wind farm about seven miles east of Evanston’s central beaches. It is not clear how that would be affected by the five-state MOU.

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On March 30, the Obama administration, with governors of Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Pennsylvania announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will “streamline the efficient and responsible development of offshore wind resources in the Great Lakes,” said the Office of the President in a prepared statement.

“The MOU will enhance collaboration between federal and state agencies to speed review of proposed offshore wind projects,” said the statement. These agencies will “develop an action plan that sets priorities and recommends steps for achieving efficient and responsible evaluation of proposed offshore wind power projects in the Great Lakes region,” said the statement. This region has the potential to produce more than 700 gigawatts of energy from offshore wind, about one-fifth of the total offshore wind potential in the United States, said the statement.

Last August, Illinois enacted legislation, sponsored by Robyn Gabel and Jeff Schoenberg, that created a council to study offshore wind energy projects in Lake Michigan and to identify locations that would be appropriate for offshore wind development.

A few weeks earlier Evanston City Council voted to try to secure a seat for an Evanston representative on the council (expected to be created) and to seek grants or corporate funding for a meteorological station to measure the wind strength and currents about seven miles east of Church Street, a possible location for a wind farm.

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl told the RoundTable, “When I was talking with the wind farm experts at GE, they told me they could not put wind farms in Lake Michigan because there were no laws to regulate them. Now there will be some laws on the books and hopefully some wind turbines in the lake.”

“A big challenge to moving forward on a wind farm initiative in Evanston is the regulatory unknowns in using Lake Michigan. The creation of a five-state agreement to work on these issues is a step in the right direction in creating a regulatory path for the use of the lake for a wind farm,” said City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz.