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Legislators want to jump-start offshore wind power production

Thursday, Jan 5, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Press release…

Black Caucus legislators Senator Robert Peters (D-Chicago) and Leader Marcus Evans (D-Chicago) together with Rep. Edgar Gonzalez (D-Chicago), Local 150 and Pastor Scott Onque of Faith in Place called for the passage of Rust Belt to Green Belt legislation to jumpstart offshore wind in Lake Michigan.

“Bringing offshore wind to Illinois is an economic issue just as much as it is an environmental issue,” said Sen. Peters, Chair of the Senate Black Caucus. “The green economy hasn’t reached the Southeast Side of Chicago, where the ruins of abandoned steel mills cast long shadows. This pilot project alone would create thousands of jobs during the building phase and 50-100 long-term jobs. And that’s from only a handful of turbines.”

Leader Marcus Evans (D-Chicago), House Sponsor of the bill was absent due to a family emergency, but issued the following statement: “Illinois will miss out on a once-in-a-generation opportunity to take advantage of federal dollars available from the Biden administration to jumpstart offshore wind projects. Other states are competing for this fundings, and if Illinois doesn’t pass this legislation now, it sends the wrong message both to the Black and Brown communities that are looking to Democrats to create the jobs they need, as well as to D.C.”

HB4543 allows Illinois to begin the process of making offshore wind in Lake Michigan a reality. Specifically, the legislation:

    • Allows the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) to seek federal funding to build an offshore wind port
    • Directs the Illinois Power Agency to procure power from an offshore wind pilot project. Legislative action must happen for these initial steps to take place.
    • Once passed, DCEO would be able to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) to find private companies capable of building the necessary wind infrastructure.

Crucially, the legislation contains provisions to ensure that the jobs generated from the project go towards the Black and Brown communities that need them the most.

    • In order to win the RFP, wind developers will need to submit a rigorous proposal that will be scored in three categories: price, overall viability of the applicant, and equity & inclusion.
    • The developer’s equity plan, which must detail how they will create opportunities and invest in underrepresented communities, is given the most weight when scoring each proposal.
    • Learn more at rustbelttogreenbelt.com

“Offshore wind is a huge opportunity for Illinois,” said Marc Poulus, Executive Director of the Indiana, Illinois, Iowa Foundation for Fair Contracting. “The passage of this legislation means a green light for unions to start creating pipelines of diverse laborers to do the work specifically required to equip the port and build the turbines. Not only will there be a class of laborers trained to do this work, but wind represents an entry point to the trades for a new generation of skilled workers.”

“Environmental justice and economic justice go hand in hand for our communities,” said Pastor Scott Onque, Faith in Place. “Offshore wind will diversify Illinois’ renewable energy sources and make us less reliant on fossil fuels, which have created a disproportionate amount of pollution in predominantly Black and Brown communities. At the same time, environmental justice is incomplete without economic justice. The jobs offshore wind creates will help right historical wrongs and support communities that battle chronic disinvestment.”

“Offshore wind has a coalition of support, from labor, to environmental advocates, to the Chicago Chamber of Commerce,” said State Rep. Edgar Gonzalez (D-Chicago). “This is a diverse coalition because offshore wind accomplishes so much for so many. During these times of inflation and an unstable energy market, creating stability and economic security for families is essential, especially when we can do it while protecting the planet at the same time.”

“My colleagues and I helped pass the most comprehensive clean energy legislation in the country, but that cannot be the ceiling for Illinois,” said State Rep. Kam Buckner (D-Chicago). “Environmental justice and sustainability is an existential issue that needs a dedicated plan, innovative thinking, and bold solutions – like offshore wind.”

The legislation is here.

* Greg Hinz

But key details are not yet available, such as the total cost of the project. And one top environmental leader immediately raised significant concerns about the proposal, among them whether state ratepayers would end up footing the bill, whether the development would violate the “public use” doctrine that generally limits Lake Michigan uses for public purposes and whether such a project even would be feasible given that the lake regularly freezes and thaws.

“These questions have not been fully addressed,” said Environmental Law & Policy Center Executive Director Howard Learner, who nonetheless stopped short of opposing the bill. […]

According to Learner, the state subsidy for the wind farm would be considerable. As now drafted, he says, the bill would require the Illinois Power Agency to spend $34 million in taxpayer money for 20 years purchasing the development’s output. That’s $680 million over term, and Learner believes the eventual subsidy could be much larger.

Except, won’t the IPA then turn around and sell the electricity? Not sure I get this ELPC analysis.

Anyway, your thoughts?

…Adding… From the Illinois Power Agency…

Hi Rich, hope you’re well.

Quick clarification on the offshore wind bill: under HB 4543, neither the IPA nor any Illinois electric utility would be taking title to the power from the project; instead, Illinois electric utilities would take title to the renewable energy credits(RECs) generated by the offshore wind project through a procurement process developed and administered by the IPA, with the sale of those RECs providing financial support back to that offshore wind project at an aggregate value capped at approximately $34 million annually (for a contract term of 20 years after project energization).

OK, now I get it.

…Adding… Also, this is ratepayer money, not taxpayer money.

       

13 Comments
  1. - Three Dimensional Checkers - Thursday, Jan 5, 23 @ 11:35 am:

    A 15-20 year power purchase agreement is standard in the industry for these developments. It’s one of the most unbreakable contracts, and the safety of the future revenues allows developers to access financing to build the project. I don’t think it is fair to call it a subsidy. If Google was the party buying the power, the developer would insist on this contract as well. The public use and freezing concerns seem valid, but this seems like an overreach to me to rhetorically label it a subsidy.


  2. - Been There - Thursday, Jan 5, 23 @ 11:36 am:

    I know they are proposing to put these pretty far out in the lake but the only place I think they would be acceptable would be in front of the steel mills. They are already ugly so no loss there. But that part of the lake is under the jurisdiction of Indiana. As a matter of fact Indiana has jurisdiction over the lake all the way north up until around 75th St. The Illinois border only goes a couple hundred feet offshore up until there. It seems there is intent with this bill to utilize the south side of Chicago but they will need to partner with Indiana to do that. Whether it is placement of the wind mills or to even run the power lines from them.


  3. - Benniefly2 - Thursday, Jan 5, 23 @ 11:47 am:

    Not for nothing, but if these projects have to go through some sort of NEPA review, the massive annual bird migrations that pass through the area will be an issue.


  4. - flea - Thursday, Jan 5, 23 @ 11:50 am:

    Better than siting them on prime farmground


  5. - No no no - Thursday, Jan 5, 23 @ 11:56 am:

    Trying this again without the trigger word. This is a really bad idea. Cost is multiples of land-based wind. There is no reason on this Earth to do this here. The reason you do offshore wind is because you don’t have the land - think East Coast or Europe. That is not remotely true in Illinois. If you support renewable energy, please don’t do this. It will give the entire industry a bad name.


  6. - Commissar Gritty - Thursday, Jan 5, 23 @ 12:10 pm:

    Thoughts on setting up a windmill outside of John Kass’s house?


  7. - OneMan - Thursday, Jan 5, 23 @ 1:31 pm:

    It appears that Ohio is giving this a try in Lake Erie

    https://electrek.co/2022/08/11/offshore-wind-farm-lake-erie/

    It would be interesting to see how that works with a lake that freezes and I think a serious investor would have to be sold on the idea of doing this in the water when there is a ton of land with 90 miles that can support wind reasonably well.


  8. - Give Us Barabbas - Thursday, Jan 5, 23 @ 2:06 pm:

    The lake freezing doesn’t affect the blades turning or keep the underwater cables from working. Access for maintenance could be an issue I suppose. A poster mentioned a possible border problem with Indiana but I look at this as a potential point where both states could share the benefits and work together. The “GCM corridor” of Gary, Chicago, Milwaukee can be a mega-metro powerhouse economically and politically in the future, and it starts with projects like this.


  9. - Wonky Kong - Thursday, Jan 5, 23 @ 2:07 pm:

    This has been filed multiple times before but the Chicago NIMBY’s always block it. This year we just have the added irony of lawmakers working to strip away local control to force wind farms downstate while they refuse to allow this idea to move forward in Chicago.

    = there is a ton of land with 90 miles that can support wind=

    I’m not totally sold on the concept that ruining the view for one area is somehow worse than taking land out of food production. But I guess NIMBY’s are gonna NIMBY.


  10. - Senator Clay Davis - Thursday, Jan 5, 23 @ 2:33 pm:

    ::If you support renewable energy, please don’t do this. It will give the entire industry a bad name.::

    Somebody should ask the wind industry how they feel about this bill. Their silence speaks volumes.


  11. - Anon221 - Thursday, Jan 5, 23 @ 2:47 pm:

    What’s happened recently in NY state regarding this subject-

    https://www.nysenate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/george-m-borrello/statement-senator-george-borrello-nyserda-feasibility

    https://www.observertoday.com/news/top-stories/2023/01/feasibility-study-reveals-little-benefit-in-lake-turbines/

    Link to Report- https://www.nyserda.ny.gov/great-lakes-wind-feasibility-study


  12. - No no no - Thursday, Jan 5, 23 @ 3:46 pm:

    “I’m not totally sold on the concept that ruining the view for one area is somehow worse than taking land out of food production. But I guess NIMBY’s are gonna NIMBY.”

    This isn’t a NIMBY issue. It’s a cost issue. 5-7 times the cost for off-shore wind as on-shore wind. Dollars are finite and if I’m gonna spend that much, I’d much rather have 5-7 times as much energy. At the end of the day, renewables can make economic sense. But off-shore wind on Lake Michigan makes zero sense whatsoever.

    BTW, I’m in downtown Chicago and am 1000% in favor of renewables. I would love to watch the wind turbines getting built and operating. This isn’t a NIMBY issue.


  13. - Candy Dogood - Thursday, Jan 5, 23 @ 9:32 pm:

    ===That’s $680 million over term===

    Rate payer or not, these kinds of numbers underscore why utilities should be publicly owned.

    ===whether such a project even would be feasible given that the lake regularly freezes and thaws.===

    This concern is adorable. I wonder what exactly he thinks Navy Pier was built on top of.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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