Illinois Rural Electric Cooperative on March 8 held a ribbon cutting for its new 500 kilowatt solar facility. The facility is located south of Winchester, Ill. on Illinois Highway 106, next to one of the substations that serves the west central Illinois cooperative’s 7,800 members. The new solar plant, covering about four acres, consists of 2,223 solar panels, all of which were manufactured in the United States. At full capacity, it will provide enough electricity for about 170 homes on the hottest day of the year. The installation is the first utility-scale photovoltaic solar energy system by a cooperative in Illinois.
The co-op was greatly honored to have United States Senator Dick Durbin, State Sen. Sam McCann, State Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer, the mayors of Winchester and Jacksonville, and representatives of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and USDA Rural Development in attendance for the ribbon cutting held on the sunniest and warmest day to
date of 2014. In addition, students and teachers from two science classes from Winchester High School were present. Illinois Rural plans to partner with the high school to use the solar facility as an educational tool, as it has previously done with its wind turbine.
“We very much appreciate the support of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and its $500,000 grant through the Renewable Energy Business Development Program,” said Robert A. Brown, the cooperative’s president. An additional grant of $415,992 was received from the United States Department of Agriculture through its Rural Energy for America Program. The total cost of this new solar project is $1,800,000. “We couldn’t have undertaken this project without federal and state assistance,” Brown continued.
“We take real pride in being able to use renewable resources that are produced at a cost which is beneficial to our members,” explained Brown. “Our renewable portfolio gives us the diversity which we believe to be critical for the long-term.” In addition to the new solar project, Illinois Rural also owns and operates a wind turbine in Pike County and has a share of wind resources from its wholesale power provider, Prairie Power, Inc.
“The Scott County Solar Plant will provide clean, renewable energy to homes and businesses
across this region. The plant continues the long tradition of cooperatives in Illinois providing safe, affordable and reliable electricity to rural communities and serves as an excellent example of local, state and federal governments working together to support clean energy,” said U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, who has been a strong supporter of the project. “The plant will also provide opportunities for high school students to learn about solar power through hands-on lessons. Projects like this help ensure that Illinois communities will be well-positioned to create jobs, gain greater energy independence, and help build a strong, sustainable America for the 21st century.”
Founded in 1936, Illinois Rural Electric Cooperative provides electricity in rural Adams, Brown, Calhoun, Cass, Greene, Jersey, Macoupin, Morgan, Pike, and Scott Counties through a 3,000 mile distribution system. Illinois Rural and nine other electric distribution cooperatives are members of Prairie Power, Inc. which provides generation and transmission services for its members.