Illinois electric co-op named 2013 Wind Cooperative of the Year

WindTurbine_RECC copyThe U.S. Department of Energy and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) in March recognized Old Dominion Electric Cooperative (ODEC) of Virginia and Rural Electric Convenience Cooperative (RECC) of Illinois as the 2013 Wind Cooperatives of the Year.

The awards were presented at the TechAdvantage 2014 Conference and Expo in Nashville, Tenn., to honor electric cooperatives that demonstrate outstanding leadership in ­advancing U.S. wind power. The two power providers were selected by a panel of judges from the wind ­industry, ­utilities, government, national ­laboratories and cooperatives, and were evaluated for their corporate leadership, project innovation, and benefits to customers.

RECC teamed up with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to provide its 5,800 cus­tomers with new sources of energy, while transforming a “brownfield” site into a source of clean, renewable energy. By installing a utility-scale turbine on the elevated section of an abandoned mine, RECC is able to capture a large amount of wind energy that is unavailable at a lower elevation. Wind speeds in central Illinois are typically slower than in northern parts of the state, so the 14-foot, 60-acre tailings pile owned by DNR gives the installation the sufficient height it needs to capture winds strong enough to power a 900-kilowatt turbine.

Several factors enhanced the project’s feasibility, including clean renewable energy bond financing, a long-term lease agreement for the site with the DNR, and proximity to a RECC substation.

David Stuva, President and CEO of Rural Electric Convenience Cooperative in Auburn, Ill., said the visibility of the GobNob 900-­kilowatt wind turbine just off I-55 serves as a way to ­educate the public and co-op members on the benefits of the renewable resource.

“Since 2009, hundreds of school kids have learned about wind energy by visiting GobNob while the ­project has produced about 10 million ­kilowatt-hours of renewable energy for our members,” said Stuva.