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Two big Chicago proposals

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Two developers are planning wind farms for Illinois that could together produce as much as 100 MW for the growing Chicago market. Both sites are southwest of Chicago and only 30 to 40 miles apart, but the economics of one depend on public funding.

Navitas Energy will likely be the first to build in Illinois. Its $55 million Mendota Hills project plans to use 57, 900 kW NEG Micon turbines -- manufactured locally -- -- to generate 50 MW. Navitas, formerly Northern Alternative Energy, has about 3500 acres of land under option near Compton, which would give farmers as much as $150,000 a year in lease payments.

The wind and gas developer is discussing a power sales agreement with Commonwealth Edison, which provides electricity to the Chicago area, says Navitas' Sandra Broekema. This agreement, plus financing, are expected to be in place in May, but it is unlikely Navitas can gather the permits and equipment to build before the end of 2001.

Among the Midwest states, Illinois does not have the best winds, but Broekema says Navitas found the resources on several ridge lines in central Illinois to be surprisingly good -- in the range of 7.3-7.5 m/s.

The other project is planned by first-time wind developer Stefan Noe, once Illinois director of Citizens for a Better Environment and now a partner in Illinois Wind Energy LLC of Chicago. Noe is planning a 30-50 MW wind farm near Princeton. He has lease options with farmers on 1500 acres as well as a site design and is negotiating a power purchase agreement with a wholesale buyer. The financing for the $50 million project still has to be worked out.

"Right now the economics of our project depend on public funding," Noe says. He is eyeing two pots of state money. One is a Clean Energy Trust Fund created as part of an agreement when Commonwealth Edison sold its coal fired generating plants, and the other is a smaller state-created fund. "I don't think the funds originally contemplated utility scale wind farms, so we may have to work with them," Noe says.

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