SPRINGFIELD-The Illinois House passed legislation Tuesday to explore the possibility of building offshore wind turbines along Lake Michigan's Illinois shoreline.
"There's offshore wind all over Europe. There's offshore wind all over the East coast," said Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston), the bill's sponsor. "So, this is a way to set the parameters in our state to begin to look at the possibility of putting wind farms in the lake."
The measure passed by a 90-21 vote and now moves to the Senate. Originally touted by the non-profit Citizens' Greener Evanston, the idea would require the Department of Natural Resources to do a four-year analysis of the lake's shoreline to find suitable areas for turbines.
"The [department] would do a full analysis of the lake, the shoreline around Illinois, to determine if there are any areas that are the right depth," Gabel said. "We have to look at the marine life. We have to look at the bird life. We have to look at shipping lanes. We have to look at boating lanes."
After convening a task force last June to assess the idea's feasibility and address conservation groups' concerns, DNR's next step is to actually assess the lake, an action Gabel said the department is willing to perform at no cost to the state. Gabel said other groups' analyses have already found suitable areas roughly six miles off the coastline.
Following the analysis, DNR would work with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and other groups to promulgate rules governing the wind farms and to award companies assessment permits. Gabel said she thinks the proposal would benefit Chicagoans and add to an industry she said has already created more than 200,000 jobs.
"If you believe that we need to have more renewable energy, we need to look at all sources," Gabel said. "And this is one source of renewable energy that we should look at."