EVANSTON, Ill. (STMW) – Evanston took another step forward Monday to look at developing an off-shore wind farm in Lake Michigan, hearing from two firms interested in providing the service.

City Council members moved closer to backing a plan for the city manager to convene a review committee to review proposals of two firms that are proposing to develop the farms. Two firms, Off Grid Technologies Inc. and Mercury Wind Energy, responded to the city’s request for proposals, issued in April, seeking interest in providing wind power.

Preliminary studies identified a potential wind site roughly 1.5 miles in size and located from six to nine miles off shore (east of Northwestern University).

Council members heard brief presentations Monday from firm representatives on details about their proposals.

Luke Townsend, legal counsel for Off Grid, told aldermen that the magnetically levitated turbines the company uses are superior to the windmill variety. The conventional windmill turbines might possibly satisfy the energy requirements of Evanston’s 30,000 households, he said.

The magnetically levitated turbines, between 20 to 25 placed in the lake, would not only satisfy that demand, but also generate excess power, “creating an energy source, if you will.” He estimated the cost of a feasibility study at $1.8 million.

The city eventually could own the farm under the Off Grid proposal.

Mercury Wind Energy, founded by Lyle Harrison, an Evanston Township High School graduate who lives in the city, stressed the company’s desire to work with the city.

Harrison pledged to help fixing the city’s dilapidated train bridges and committed to building a brand new engineering and science laboratory at the high school.

The minimum cost of an off-shore wind farm would run $313 million, the firm said in its proposal.

With the city currently “financially challenged, Mercury Energy is fully experienced and (has the) capability of raising the financing,” firm officials said.

Once completed, the firm would own the wind farm. With an off shore wind farm, the average price of electricity could be held constant for the next 20 years.

Neither firm’s representatives nor council members went into any depth on environmental issues, such as the effects on birds and wildlife, in the relatively brief presentations. Nevertheless, said Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, “it’s very exciting that we’re talking about this, that we’ve reached the next step.”

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