Illinois Rural Electric Cooperative held a ribbon cutting for its new 500 kilowatt solar facility which is located south of Winchester on Illinois Highway 106, next to one of the substations that serves the cooperative’s 7,800 members.
The co-op was greatly honored to have United States Senator Dick Durbin, State Sen. Sam McCann, State Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer, and representatives of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and USDA Rural Development in attendance.
The solar plant, covering about four acres, consists of 2,223 solar panels, all of which were manufactured in the U.S. 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.
“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.
This solar project, in addition to the cooperative’s wind turbine in Pike County and its share of Prairie Power’s wind resources, brings Illinois Rural Electric’s renewable resources equal to more than 14% of the cooperative’s peak demand. “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.”
“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 electricity at an affordable price 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 ten counties through a 3,000 mile distribution system. IREC and nine other electric distribution cooperatives are members of Prairie Power, Inc. which provides generation and transmission services for its members.