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State Representative Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston) and State Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) have secured passage of legislation that outlines the next steps toward harnessing the wind over Lake Michigan to generate electric power. 

If House Bill 2753 receives the governor’s signature, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will conduct a multi-year study of possible locations for offshore wind energy projects and the potential environmental impact on the lake. The study would result in a “siting matrix” that identifies preferred locations and prohibited locations for wind energy developments. 

“This is the next step in evaluating a promising source of alternative energy for Illinois,” Biss said. “Lake Michigan is one of the state’s most important natural assets, and I’m very optimistic we can balance the needs of wildlife, the shipping industry, recreational boaters and lakefront residents with responsible wind energy development.” 

“Now is the time to discover and develop alternative energy sources for a sustainable future,” Gabel said. “Since 2011, I have worked closely with local advocates and the Lake Michigan Offshore Wind Energy Advisory Council to produce an off-shore wind energy plan that is fiscally responsible and environmentally-friendly. It is my hope that the measure that passed the General Assembly today will relieve our dependence on fossil fuels and harness more local energy to ultimately reduce energy costs for consumers in Illinois. “ 

In addition to launching the siting study, HB 2753 creates a task force to study mechanisms to purchase and sell power from off-shore wind energy projects in Illinois; legislators will receive a report by the end of this year. Once the siting study (which DNR personnel indicate would be conducted over the next two years) is complete, the agency may begin granting permits and site leases to developers interested in evaluating particular locations. Later, these assessment leases could be converted to construction and operating leases. 

The measure now awaits the governor’s signature.