Cape Wind decision may help further Evanston proposal

The Obama administration approved plans for the first American offshore wind farm Wednesday, a decision that could eventually have ripple effects off Evanston’s Lake Michigan shoreline.

Cape Wind Associates, which hopes to build 130 wind turbines off the coast of Massachusetts, received a federal permit to move forward. The high-profile proposal has been both praised and criticized by prominent environmental groups and politicians since it was first proposed about 10 years ago. Opponents of the plan said Wednesday they would challenge the government approval in court.

The Cape Wind decision comes weeks after the Evanston City Council took a preliminary step toward possibly building a wind farm in Lake Michigan. In a unanimous decision, the council on April 13 asked city staff to complete a Request for Information about such a project.

Wednesday’s Cape Wind announcement paves the way for other offshore wind farm locations in the country, said Nate Kipnis, co-chair of the Renewable Energy Task Force, a committee of Citizens for a Greener Evanston.

“They set a precedent,” he said. “It’s an incredibly important day. It’s good to see that moving forward.”

But Kipnis, an architect, said the process for constructing a wind farm off Evanston’s shoreline is still in its infancy.

Currently, his organization is gauging interest and looking for funding, the first step before assessing the area’s wind potential and making a proposal. If Evanston does not have the potential for harnessing wind power, the effort is futile, he said.

Nevertheless, Kipnis said wind farms are a great idea and “should be looked at in detail.”