Developer starts building 800 MW project with US components in Illinois

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From pv magazine USA

Swift Current Energy, a Boston-based solar and wind project developer, has kicked off construction on the Double Black Diamond solar project in Illinois, an 800 MW(DC) utility-scale solar project that could become the largest solar project in the United States and the first to use only US-made modules, hardware and electrical components.

The project is scheduled for construction by the fall of 2024, and it will be owned by the developer once it is operational. First Solar is providing 1.6 million US-made solar panels and Nextracker is supplying US-made tracking systems for the project.

The developer recently tapped McCarthy Building Companies as the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor on the project. Construction is expected to last 14 months.

The project checks off a few additional boxes for US Inflation Reduction Act initiatives and rebates. The project has set apprenticeship, as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion hiring goals, which are being facilitated with local unions for carpenters, laborers, operators, electricians, and crew leads.

In partnership with local unions, McCarthy will train workers who are inexperienced in utility-scale solar construction to assist with future workforce needs and accommodate the exponential regional and national growth of the solar industry. Once operational, Double Black Diamond will provide enough clean energy equivalent to more than 85,000 Illinois households per year.

In collaboration with Constellation Energy, an Exelon company, the city of Chicago will be a key offtake customer. Starting in 2025, the city will partially source its large energy uses such as Chicago O’Hare International Airport and Midway International Airport with renewable energy from Double Black Diamond. The project is expected to bring $100 million in tax revenue to the Counties of Sangamon and Morgan counties, where the project is located.

“As one of Double Black Diamond’s largest end users, the City of Chicago is proud to support a project that will generate solar energy right here in Illinois and will be constructed according to our shared labor and equity goals,” said Angela Tovar, chief sustainability officer for Chicago’s Office of Climate and Environmental Equity.

Additional offtake customers for the large project include State Farm Insurance, which will procure about 103,000 MWh of clean energy per year from Constellation as part of its efforts to reduce its environmental footprint.

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