United States

United States

The windy city

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Chicago, Illinois, the site of the Global Windpower 2004 conference and exhibition, has a colourful history of gangsters, tough talk and political machines. It also has an historical role as a centre for commerce in the US upper Midwest.

US poet Carl Sandburg described the city in the early part of the 20th century as: Hog butcher for the world, tool maker, stacker of wheat, player with railroads and the nation's freight handler, stormy, husky, brawling, city of the big shoulders.

It has maintained that reputation since. With its skyscrapers in architectural styles from Bauhaus to Postmodern and most notably the 110-storey Sears Tower, the third tallest building in the world, the city sits at the edge of Lake Michigan, whose onshore breezes earned Chicago the nickname "Windy City." Conference delegates, hit by blustery winds as soon as they stepped outside the McCormick Place venue, soon learned why.

While Illinois is far from the nation's leading wind power state in either potential generation or installed capacity, it is on the verge of a 400 MW build-up in the next couple of years. That is largely driven by Chicago Mayor Richard Daly, who welcomed Windpower 2004 delegates to the city. Saying he wants to "transform the urban environment to a clean environment," he has decreed that city government will buy 20% of its power from renewables by 2005.

"We have to show the way for the private sector to improve the quality of life and of the economy," he said. "We'll do that not just by purchasing wind, but by advocating for wind."

Illinois has one utility scale wind plant so far, the 50.4 MW Mendota Hills facility installed last year by Navitas Energy of Minneapolis, Minnesota, the US arm of Gamesa, a Spanish wind turbine manufacturer and project developer.

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