Wind power: An opportunity for illinois

September 1, 2015

Wind power: An opportunity for illinois


The U.S. Clean Power Plan will require states to reduce carbon emissions significantly by 2030. The mandate allows states to decide how to reach this target. Rather than relying on coal-fired power plants, Illinois can build natural gas plants or invest in renewable technology like solar, geothermal or wind. The state’s geography and climate give Illinois a special advantage in the use of wind power.

This policy brief compares the cost of production for wind energy and other comparable sources, and predictions for future costs in the U.S. and Illinois. It also takes a look at considerations for placement of wind parks.

Both globally and in the U.S., fossil fuels still constitute the largest share of energy capacity. Wind energy capacity has grown steadily over the past eight years, with an average annual growth of 46.3 percent internationally. Other renewables, such as hydroelectric and solar, have also grown steadily. Trends in electricity production costs, or the cost of making electricity (including fuel and labor), show oil prices generally increasing over time, so oil-fired power capacity has fallen. In turn, production costs of coal power have increased slight as well, so total capacity in Illinois for renewables has increased in the past decade. Since 2005, wind power has joined nuclear power as a second significant source of renewable energy in Illinois.

The future cost of producing wind energy is lowest in the Midwest. Illinois has strong winds near demand centers like Chicago and it has geography conducive to wind parks. Three possible windmill locations include onshore wind parks, which is currently the most popular location, offshore Lake Michigan sites, and nearshore Lake Michigan sites.

An offshore site shows promise, as the state established the Lake Michigan Offshore Wind Energy Advisory Council to explore the benefits and challenges of such a project. However, no offshore wind parks have been built in the U.S. as of 2015. Considering factors such as distance to shore and water depth, a nearshore location may be more financially attractive, although the visual impact from the shoreline may spur “not in my backyard” objections.

Research Area: Economic Policy

Policy Initiative: Climate Change