HERSCHER, Illinois. (Oct. 1, 2014): EDF Renewable Energy (EDF RE) and Microsoft Corporation today celebrated the launch of the Pilot Hill Wind Project with a groundbreaking ceremony. Located 60 miles southwest of Chicago in Kankakee and Iroquois counties, the 175 megawatt (MW) wind project is expected to begin commercial operation early in 2015. More than 100 people attended the ceremony including U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill. who called it a historic day for the state of Illinois and the nation.
“We’re not only breaking ground on an exciting, new wind energy facility, we’re leading the way to a clean energy economy,” said Kelly. “I applaud Microsoft and EDF Renewable Energy for investing in clean energy and standing on the forefront of positive change and social responsibility.”
[READ: “Microsoft wind farm breaks ground in Kankakee” Microsoft wind farm breaks ground in Kankakee” Chicago Tribune, October 1, 2014]
The Project, consisting of GE 1.7 MW wind turbines, benefits from a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with Microsoft. The PPA played a key role in advancing the Project by providing the long-term revenue certainty needed to get Pilot Hill off of the ground and into construction.
“The Pilot Hill Wind Project is important to Microsoft because it helps solidify our commitment to taking significant action to shape our energy future by developing clean, low-cost sources to meet our energy needs,” said Paul Scanlan, Senior Program Manager for Energy Strategy. “Microsoft is focused on transforming the energy supply chain for cloud services, from the power plant to the computer chip. Long-term commitments like Pilot Hill help ensure a cleaner grid to supply energy to our datacenters.”
Tristan Grimbert, President and CEO of EDF Renewable Energy added, “The participation of companies like Microsoft in renewable energy generation projects points to a growing trend of organizations directly procuring clean energy. Companies are coming to understand that setting renewable energy, energy efficiency, and greenhouse gas emissions reduction commitments can deliver attractive cost-savings benefits while locking in long-term energy price stability. We are grateful for the sustained efforts of Vision Energy and Orion Energy who shepherded this project through the origination and development phases, and to the landowners who have patiently waited for this day to come.”
Pilot Hill will also trigger significant economic development through the creation of approximately 150 local craft labor positions during peak construction as well as long-term operations and maintenance opportunities. In addition, tens of millions of dollars over the life of the project will be provided in the form of lease payments to landowners and property taxes.
With its close proximity to Chicago and one of the top ranking renewable energy training programs in the nation at Kankakee Community College, local officials hope Pilot Hill will prompt more investment in renewable energy in the area.
“Kankakee Community College is excited about the jobs and training opportunities that this project brings to our community,” remarked KCC President Dr. John Avendano. “Renewable energy is key to our future. KCC is proud to be training skilled wind technicians as part of one of the most-recognized renewable energy programs in the country.”
“Kankakee County has shown great commitment to the Pilot Hill Wind Project during the past five years of pre-development,” noted Mike Van Mill, President/CEO of the Economic Alliance of Kankakee County. “We are thrilled to see it become a reality. In addition to generating job growth and tax revenue, Pilot Hill further establishes Kankakee County as a renewable energy leader and a green technology hub. Our doors are wide open for green business.”
Mortenson Construction’s Wind Energy Group has started onsite construction activities including construction of all access roads and public road improvements; foundations; turbine erection; operations and maintenance building; collection system; substation; T-line and the installation of MET towers.
As part of EDF Renewable Energy’s community engagement program the company contributed $15,000 to area organizations; Central CUSD #4, Herscher CUSD #2, and the Community Foundation of Kankakee River Valley each were presented with a check for $5,000.
EDF Renewable Energy is one of the largest renewable energy developers in North America with 5.7 gigawatts of wind, solar, biomass, and biogas projects developed throughout the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.