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Great Lakes Article:

State to get its first wind power farm

June 28, 2002

BY GARY GISBY ENVIRONMENT REPORTER

Chicago Sun Times

ComEd announced plans Wednesday for the first commercial wind farm in Illinois, allowing Chicago--the Windy City--the chance to take a giant step toward the five-year goal of pulling 20 percent of its power from environmentally friendly sources.

The $65 million project will be built near Tiskilwa in Bureau County, 110 miles west of Chicago.

On 20 acres in the middle of 2,200 acres of farmland, 34 wind turbines will take advantage of average wind speeds in excess of 17 mph.

The high-tech windmills will stand 380 feet high, including giant three-blade rotors 235 feet across.

Their combined output of 51 megawatts will be enough to supply electricity for 20,000 homes.

ComEd said the wind farm will be one of the largest east of the Mississippi and is to be completed by the middle of next year. The utility will be the new wind farm's only customer.

Wind-generated electricity will be folded in with ComEd's other power sources. "Every customer gets a piece of the wind farm," said Larry Leonard, the utility's director of energy acquisition.

But that doesn't mean Chicago can count the power it buys as contributing toward its 20 percent "green power" goal. The city must negotiate separately with ComEd to earmark part of the production for itself, Leonard said.

Chicago will be doing that, said Environment Commissioner Marcia Jimenez. "We expect some kind of mix that will include solar, landfill gas and hydropower as well," she said.

Co-owners of the wind farm will be Illinois Wind Energy, formed in September 2000 to develop such farms, and Tomen Power Corp., billed as one of the world's largest wind power developers.

Tomen Power is a subsidiary of Tomen Power Holdings, a Japanese corporation that accounts for about 5 percent of the world's total wind power generation capacity. Tomen built its first wind power generation plant in California in 1987, and today operates or is developing more than 20 wind farms in Europe, the United States and Japan with a combined output capacity of 1,400 megawatts.

Supplying the turbines is NEG Micon, whose U.S. operations are headquartered in Rolling Meadows. It builds wind power plants ranging from 1 to more than 100 megawatts. Since 1997, NEG Micon North America has provided technology valued at more than $500 million, representing 715 turbines producing 560 megawatts.

The federal government gives a production tax credit to wind power developers. But Leonard said that as technology continues to improve, wind is becoming competitive with coal, natural gas and other fuels.

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