Move over, Chicago. Peoria could become the next Windy City.
At least, that’s something local economic development leaders believe is worth looking into.
Craig Hullinger, economic development director for the city of Peoria, is urging area civic and government leaders to determine the feasibility of making wind power the city’s chief energy source.
Many questions must be answered before anything is done, Hullinger said Wednesday, “But I definitely think this is something worth checking into. Wind energy is here, and I think it’s here to stay.”
Hullinger first broached the subject during a meeting Wednesday of the Economic Development Stakeholders, a group of the area’s organizations involved with economic development.
His idea is that a consortium of business and governments in Peoria could be created to buy wind energy from an area wind farm. The wind farm company would take care of locating the wind farm, which Hullinger acknowledged would be controversial, finding a place close enough to the Peoria metropolitan area.
He suggested near Interstate 74 on the approach to Peoria, or perhaps developing a business park with the wind farm “to further enhance our image as a green community.”
Hullinger brought it up at the economic development meeting almost as a trial balloon, to gauge the interest of the group.
“They were hearing it for the first time, but they seemed interested,” he said later.
One person who agrees the issue is worth pursuing is Jim McConoughey, president of the Heartland Partnership.
McConoughey said there are cities in other parts of the world that use wind as a major source of energy. “This isn’t a new idea in some parts of the planet. It may not be that well-known here, yet, but many countries use wind energy as the backbone to their urban energy needs. It exists, and it works.”
McConoughey believes one reason wind energy has stayed in the background in the United States is that until the last few years, energy costs were fairly stable. Now that they, too, are climbing, people are looking for alternatives.
McConoughey also agreed with Hullinger that should the Peoria area become known for using clean energy and green sustainable technology, it could become more attractive to people and businesses considering a move.
“The idea that a community has the technical expertise to do this would be very attractive,” he said.
Hullinger said he will bring the idea to the city’s Sustainable Development Commission and begin dialogue with companies capable of handling the city’s needs to at least get answers to the myriad questions likely to be asked, including how many turbines would it take to power the metropolitan area.
He also plans to discuss it with the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, which often funds clean energy research efforts, and look into other possible funding sources.
“There is a lot to be done, of course. This isn’t something that could happen overnight. But it’s definitely worth looking in to,” Hullinger said.