Chicago’s municipal buildings will soon be powered by a nearly 600 MW solar project

Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and the Department of Assets, Information, and Services (AIS) visited Chicago Urban League to announce an agreement with Constellation, in conjunction with Swift Current Energy, to help respect the mayor’s commitment to buy renewable energy for the whole city. facilities and operations by 2025, making Chicago one of the largest cities in the nation to do so. The agreement also includes important commitments to workforce development and equity.

“I am extremely proud to advance this commitment to transition all city operations to 100% renewable energy by 2025,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “Signing this agreement demonstrates that the City of Chicago is leading by example and leading high-impact climate action, developing the clean energy workforce of the future and equitably distributing meaningful benefits for promote the local economy of clean energy for all.

The key terms of the contract include:

  • The city has signed an initial five-year energy supply agreement with Constellation, the nation’s leading clean energy company, starting in January 2023.
  • As part of the agreement with Constellation, starting in 2025, the city will partly supply its large energy uses such as airports, the Harold Washington Library Center and the Jardine water purification plant with energy. renewable energy from a new solar generation facility currently being developed by Swift Current. Energy in downstate Sangamon and Morgan counties.
  • Construction of the solar project is expected to begin before the end of 2022 and is expected to create hundreds of jobs in Illinois.
  • The city will also source renewable energy credits from other sources for its remaining energy uses, such as small and medium-sized buildings and streetlights.
  • Swift Current Energy will own and operate Double Black Diamond Solar, which at 593 MW is expected to be one of Illinois’ largest solar projects to date.

The project will also be a source of renewable energy for other large organizations in Illinois.

“We are providing a clean energy solution that will help the City of Chicago significantly reduce its carbon footprint and have a tangible, positive impact in the fight against climate change,” said Jim McHugh, chief commercial officer of Constellation. “As we work with our customers to implement sustainability initiatives, it is especially important that we help underserved and resource-poor communities participate in the transition to a zero-carbon future. We look forward to working with Swift Current Energy to bring this project to life for the city of Chicago. »

This agreement, the culmination of a competitive procurement process that began with an RFP from AIS in September 2020, is a major step in reducing Chicago’s carbon footprint and accelerating the transition towards clean, renewable energy outlined in the Chicago 2022 Climate Action Plan (CAP). CAP 2022 details an interim 62% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 through direct investment and action by the City of Chicago. The city’s participation in Bloomberg Philanthropies’ American Cities Climate Challenge helped the city, through technical advisors, design this process.

“As the owner or operator of more than 425 facilities across the city, including City Hall and one of the busiest airports in the world, it is imperative that we, as city leaders, take all necessary steps to decarbonize our assets and mitigate the disastrous effects of climate change,” said Sandra Blakemore, Acting Commissioner for AIS. “AIS is delighted to have worked with Constellation and Swift Current Energy to achieve a monumental step for the City of Chicago, while focusing on our multifaceted approach to a clean energy transition, including electrifying our fleet and retrofitting our building portfolio.”

The city’s innovative procurement process scored respondents based on key elements such as the community benefits of the proposal and each respondent’s ability to facilitate the construction of new renewable energy in Illinois. As a result, Constellation, in conjunction with Swift Current Energy, has made financial commitments under the agreement to help fund job training, apprenticeships, educational and/or other programs in Chicago that focus on developing of diversified, clean and sustainable energy. Workforce. This approach will enable innovative local and equitable co-benefit agreements that will fund community climate infrastructure projects and workforce development training.

In addition, all parties will actively work to bring the Double Black Diamond Solar project into compliance with the various statewide renewable energy labor and labor requirements of the law. on Clean Economy Employment (CEJA), including a project labor agreement, payment of prevailing wages, and guarantee that a minimum of 10% of the project workforce are eligible persons to fairness.

“The Chicago Urban League congratulates the city on achieving its ambitious goal while ensuring workforce development is a priority through a new community benefits agreement,” said Karen Freeman Wilson, president and CEO of the Chicago Urban League. “One of the ways the League works to advance economic equity is to prepare people in underserved communities for in-demand jobs that allow them to participate in the future economy. Over the past few years, over 200 people have completed our solar panel installation training program, and some of our graduates were incredibly proud to be part of the team that made one of the biggest solar projects possible. in Chicago earlier this year – the installation of a solar roof and carport at our corporate headquarters. Being part of the renewable energy workforce will change lives.

The City of Chicago plans to apply for the Illinois Power Agency’s Revolving Portfolio Standard (RPS) “Self-Direct” credit program, made available through CEJA. The Self-Direct program provides eligible large energy consumers like the city with an electricity bill credit for REC purchases from qualified wind and solar resources. The program encourages large-scale REC purchases to help Illinois achieve its statewide RPS goals. The city has pledged to reinvest its Self-Direct program bill credit funds to continue decarbonizing its own city buildings and fleet. The city has already begun transitioning its fleet to all-electric vehicles with a commitment to a full transition by 2035. Additionally, the city has allocated dollars in Chicago’s stimulus package to accelerate energy retrofits and renewable energy generation, starting with libraries in historically underserved areas. communities on the south and west sides.

Constellation news item

Melissa C. Keyes