Chicago parks powered by wind

  • Medill News Service
  • May 25, 2007 @ 8:26 AM
The Chicago Park District is keeping its parks green in more ways than just their color - it is supplying them with a portion of green or renewable energy technology, another victory for the state in its drive to use more clean energy.

A state contract launched in April will replace 30 percent of the Chicago Park District's electrical energy supply with renewable energy, mostly generated from wind power.

"Utilizing renewable energy is just one of many ways the Chicago Park District is demonstrating our commitment to our environment," said Tim Mitchell, general superintendent and CEO of the Chicago Park District.

The park district has partnered with Integrys Energy Services Inc., a subsidiary of the Chicago-based utility holding company, Integrys Energy Group Inc., which will discount 10 percent of the clean energy at the same fixed price rate of standard electricity.

Recent rate increases by ComEd, the park district's main electrical distributor, factored into the decision to explore other energy solutions, according to Ellen Sargent, the park district's deputy director of natural resources.

"The contract will to be used across our entire electrical portfolio, which includes about 550 parks," she said. "Environmental stewardship is absolutely a priority."

Sargent's department, known as the "Green" department of the Chicago Park District - was founded in 2001 to maintain the mayor's clean and green initiatives and to address community concerns, such as trash collection.  Last year the district began a recycling program and planted more than 2,000 trees in parks across the city.

"Developing wind power, a 'no-CO2'energy source, can help to solve our global warming problems," said Howard A. Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law  Policy Center in Chicago. 

There are currently 5,500 megawatts of wind power in the development pipeline in Illinois, enough power to supply 1.7 million homes.

Earlier this month, the Illinois House of Representatives passed a Renewable Energy Standard measure requiring the state to buy 2 percent of its power from renewable energy sources by 2008, 10 percent by 2015 and to set a goal of 25 percent by 2025.

"Illinois is playing catch up to the 20 states that have already passed renewable energy standards," Learner said.  "We can now hit the ground running and become a national leader in renewable energy production within the next few years."

Illinois is a hub for transmission lines, which makes connecting new wind projects to the electricity grid more affordable than in other states. 

"It's great that there is a tremendous upswing in wind power technologies," said Aur Beck, a board member of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association, a non-profit that provides education on energy efficiency.  "[The park district's] contract will raise more awareness of renewable energy solutions.  

"Most people want to say that it only takes the grassroots to contribute to that but it takes both ends - the industry and the grassroots."