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Illinois Country Living

Co-ops celebrate energizing wind turbines

E.ON Climate & Renewables (EC&R) North America generated power in October on the first turbines on the Pioneer Trail Wind Farm, located in Ford and Iroquois counties, approximately four miles east of Paxton.

The project, the first wind energy project in Ford County, expects to be placed in service by mid-2012. Three generation and transmission (G&T) cooperatives, serving 21 Illinois electric cooperatives will be purchasing 40 megawatts of wind energy from the Pioneer Trail Wind Farm. Prairie Power, Inc., Southern Illinois Power Cooperative and Wabash Valley Power Association are entering into an 18-year power purchase agreement that was coordinated through the National Renewables Cooperative Organization. Co-op leaders said the wind power will help diversify the co-ops’ power supply with renewable power, and help bring new jobs and new revenue to the area served by Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative, headquartered in Paxton.

“We are honored to be a part of the local community, and we look forward to providing economic support and renewable, homegrown energy for many years to come,” said Steve Trenholm, CEO, EC&R North America, at a ceremony marking the energization of the first turbines on the site. “Wind farms create jobs, and provide an economic shot in the arm to farmers, ranchers and rural communities across America.”

Locally, this project should create more than $29 million dollars in local taxes, paying $8 million in local salaries and more than $50 million to landowners. EC&R expects to employ approximately 200 people during construction and establish 8 to 10 permanent positions in Iroquois County.

The turbines were manufactured by General Electric. Construction is being done by White Construction.

The 94 GE 1.6 megawatt turbines on site will provide more than 150 megawatts (MW) of power—enough to provide clean power to more than 45,000 households in Illinois using North American made turbines, blades and towers.

“We appreciate the support this community has given us helping harvest a new source of clean renewable energy from these corn and bean fields,” said Trenholm, during the ceremony.

In acknowledgement of that community support, EC&R presented a donation, totaling $15,000, to the local school district and to the community swimming pool.

The operation of this project will mark the 15th operational wind farm in North America for EC&R, giving the company more than 2,000 MW online.

E.ON Climate & Renewables (EC&R) is responsible for the E.ON group’s renewable energy and environmental protection activities around the world. Tapping renewable energy sources offers enormous alternatives, both from a business perspective and for the environment. E.ON Climate & Renewables will be investing 2.6 billion euros in renewable energy and environmental protection projects from 2011 - 2013 to expand the share of renewable energy in E.ON’s portfolio for the long term. E.ON is taking a leading role in developing renewable energy sources worldwide.

David Champion, Jr., President/CEO of Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative, said the co-ops’ purchase of wind energy demonstrates that electric co-ops are not only committed to the communities they serve and energy innovation, but also looking for affordable power supply options. Champion said, “Our power supplier, Prairie Power Inc., has been searching for commercially available, viable, renewable projects as a potential resource for some time. Most of the alternatives were priced such that the costs would be higher than our current and projected average cost of power. By remaining diligent in their search, they found a project that is both good for the environment and cost effective for our members.  Our participation in this project is made possible by the competitive pricing that is reflected in this new contract.”

The electric co-ops are purchasing both the energy and renewable energy credits (RECs) produced by this project over a long period of time. This provides renewable energy system developers like E.ON, with a steady source of revenue to finance the construction of additional renewable energy projects in Illinois.



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Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

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