Guest Column: Illinois’ wind resource potential is overrated

It should be a no-brainer to support the use of wind, solar and geothermal energy because such clean energy sources are seemingly infinite and “free,” and if they cease to exist, so will life as we know it!

It should also be a no-brainer to recognize and accept that not all forms of renewable energy are economically feasible for northern Illinois.

According to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USNRC), the western third of the country is best positioned to capitalize on wind power (Rocky Mountain area); USNRC ranks Illinois “marginal” at best (fourth on a scale of 1-5 where “1” is “outstanding” and “5” is “poor”). See

According to UDNRC, northern Illinois’ best renewable energy sources are “geothermal” (heat from water) and biomass/biofuels (methane digestion and ethanol). There does seem to be some question whether “biodiesel” is feasible in northern climates (energy is needed to keep it free-flowing in winter). Interestingly, coal is Illinois’ third-best energy source as huge deposits exist in the southern three-quarters of Illinois.

My sister recently retired from the U.S. Department of Energy and worked for the USEPA; she advised me wind power is best used when designed to meet the specific needs of the end-user (case by case, property by property).

Certainly, politicians have access to this same information; then, why do they allow proponents to:

Overstate claims of feasibility?

Insist the public interest will be best served by using tax dollars to subsidize private projects and public infrastructure?

Publicly attack the credibility of interested/concerned citizens and/or media asking questions?

Refer to critical thinkers as “naysayers” and C.A.V.E. people (Citizens Against Virtually Everything)?

Paint concerned citizens and fiscally responsible representatives as anti-economic development?

Fear and guilt are two great political motivators and demotivators!

How much more can we afford to let politicians commit our money/resources to subsidize private industry?

Feasibility and environmental impact studies must be mandatory; and if a proposed project cannot cash flow without public subsidies, then no public money should be used without securing such a public investment with some manner of collateral!

If proponents cannot demonstrate their project is low-risk, with a reasonable rate of return on public investment and minimal environmental impact over the short and long term, then such projects should be soundly rejected! There are public, private and environmental costs associated with building and maintaining the infrastructure needed to transport any energy produced by windfarms; such economies are often not energy—nor cost-efficient.

If a project is a good investment, then the public should have the ability to purchase stock options directly with their money! Government has no business “investing” our money without asking our permission!

For years, and with increasing frequency, citizens have lobbied for “nuisance ordinances” because they don’t like how their neighbors choose to use their properties (upholstered furniture on porches or prairie-grass and wild flowers for lawns); the complainants claim such temporary cosmetic nuisances negatively impact their real property values and their quality of life. It seems absurd to me anyone would suggest property owners just allow such windfarms in their back yard without first seeking to protect the value of their investment!

At one public hearing, a windfarm investor-owner admitted he would not buy a home with a windtower in its back yard. If he wouldn’t live by his own project, why should anyone else be forced to?

Contributing Writer Marianne L. Garvens is a Freeport resident.

from the issue March 14-20, 2007, issue

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