Illinois experiences new kind of solar flare

Aug. 17 was a whirlwind of solar activity in Illinois. Governor Patrick Quinn (D) signed into law a bill establishing photovoltaic (PV) requirements. He followed that up by announcing a $4 million grant to help fund the Rockford Solar Project, one of the United States’ largest PV projects, which will be located in Rockford, and then he cut the ribbon on a new PV manufacturing plant in Rockford.

When completed, the Rockford Solar Project could be as large as 62 megawatts (MWs) and will be the largest in the Midwest and one of the largest in the country. The project is being made possible partly thanks to a $4 million grant Rockford Solar Partners won from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s (ARRA’s) Community Renewable Energy Program. The ARRA grant was awarded by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. It will support the initial 28 MW phase of the 62 MW PV plant.

The grant was announced Aug. 17 by Illinois Gov. Patrick Quinn (D) who, earlier the same day, signed House Bill 6202 into law. That bill established “solar targets to help Illinois successfully scale up to reach the state’s solar renewable portfolio standard of 6 percent by 2015,” according to New Generation Power.

New Generation Power is one half of Rockford Solar Partners, LLC, which is developing Rockford Solar Project. The other half of the partnership is Wanxiang America Corp., a U.S. subsidiary of China-based Wanxiang Group Companies.

“The state’s investment will help ensure Illinois remains a leader in renewable energy development, while continuing to build on the state’s energy independence goals,” Governor Quinn said at the Wanxiang plant ribbon-cutting. “With partnerships with companies like Wanxiang and New Generation Power, we’re creating hundreds of sustainable, green-collar jobs and providing an economic boost to the entire state.”

At 62 MW the Rockford Solar Project will produce enough electricity to power about 10,286 homes, according to New Generation Power. In addition, it will reduce 113,000 tons of carbon dioxide, an amount equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions of 19,601 passenger vehicles, the organization said.

New Generation Power said that the grant amounts to about 1.3 percent of the system’s total projected cost. Partners will seek 68 percent of its financing from nongovernmental sources, the company added.