Sites for offshore wind energy development in Lake Michigan, US, should be leased in phases, according to a report by a working group established by Illinois governor Pat Quinn.
In its 56-page final report, the Lake Michigan Offshore Wind Energy Advisory Committee recommends strategy that would see developers first lease portions of the lakebed for site assessment. Later, if they complete the necessary steps and choose to pursue development, developers would apply for a site construction and operation lease.
The report lists the criteria that should be used to evaluate lease applications, pointing out that the state needs to "develop a carefully balanced regulatory system to protect natural resources and sustainable uses of Lake Michigan".
It recommends the state develop a "detailed offshore wind siting matrix" to identify which portions of Lake Michigan are acceptable for offshore wind development.
The report also urges the state to establish a task force to look at the policy options for supporting offshore wind deployment. Various jurisdictions use feed-in tariffs, renewable energy certificates or offshore-specific power purchase agreements. "The appropriate mechanism for Illinois requires an in-depth evaluation of options to arrive at the appropriate approach," the report says.
The report offers no evaluation of the total offshore wind capacity likely to be built in Lake Michigan, but says the state is well positioned to take advantage of the resource.
"The wind blowing over the Great Lakes, including Lake Michigan, produces some of the most powerful and consistent concentrations of energy in the United States," the report says. "Few places in the United States have so large a renewable energy resource positioned so accessibly close to metropolitan population centers."
Officials from the governor’s office and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources could not be reached for comment on how or when the committee’s recommendations will be acted upon.