Renewable energy developer Swift Current Energy is ramping up construction this spring for its Double Black Diamond solar project in central Illinois, which is currently the largest PV project in the state. The company has contracted St. Louis-based McCarthy Building Companies as the engineering, procurement and construction contractor.
Double Black Diamond will use American made components, including 800 MWDC of solar modules from First Solar and single-axis solar trackers from Nextracker. The majority of the project’s 1.6-million solar panels will be manufactured in the United States.
“As America’s solar company, we’re pleased that our responsibly produced solar technology, designed and developed right here in the United States, will power this project,” said Georges Antoun, CCO of First Solar. “This isn’t simply an example of American solar; it’s an example of the potential for Responsible Solar to power growth and decarbonization in the U.S.”
In coordination with local unions, the project will employ approximately 435 craft workers to construct the Double Black Diamond solar project. Crews have started site preparations. Peak workforce is expected to be onsite for approximately 14 months, beginning in late spring 2023. The project is expected to reach commercial operation by fall 2024, with Swift Current continuing to own and operate the facility.
“As the developer and long-term owner of Double Black Diamond, we are thrilled to prepare for full mobilization of the more than 400 skilled workers who will construct this project,” said Eric Lammers, CEO of Swift Current. “The Double Black Diamond solar project brings together American-based businesses McCarthy, First Solar and Nextracker to construct a market-leading project that we hope will serve as an example for other projects to come.”
The project has set apprenticeship, as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion hiring goals, which are being facilitated by local unions for carpenters, laborers, operators, electricians and crew leads. In partnership with the unions, McCarthy will train workers who are inexperienced in utility-scale solar construction to assist with future workforce needs and accommodate the regional and national growth of the solar industry.
“We are grateful to be partnering with Swift Current Energy to build Illinois’ largest solar project and helping to deliver upon the sustainability and DEI goals of the Double Black Diamond project,” said Scott Canada, executive VP of McCarthy’s Renewable Energy & Storage team. “With the expansive growth of utility-scale solar construction throughout the country, we are thrilled to be able to facilitate the development of a more diverse workforce while also supporting the state’s sustainability goals — Double Black Diamond truly represents a community impact project for the region.”
First Solar is expanding its U.S. manufacturing footprint, which currently stands at over 5 GW of annual nameplate capacity with three operating factories in Ohio. The company is expected to reach more than 10 GW by 2025, when it completes its new $1.1 billion factory in Alabama and a $185 million expansion of its existing capacity in Ohio. First Solar is also investing $270 million in a new research and development innovation center in Ohio.
“It’s projects like these that have America reclaiming its legacy as an energy powerhouse,” said Dan Shugar, Nextracker founder and CEO. “We are building this country’s energy security with American-made solar panels on Pittsburgh-made steel.”
In collaboration with Constellation, it was announced in August that the city of Chicago would be a key end-user for the Double Black Diamond solar project. Starting in 2025, the Chicago will partially source its large energy loads, such as Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Midway International Airport and other facilities, with renewable energy from the Double Black Diamond solar project. Additionally, the project is expected to bring $100 million in tax revenue to Sangamon and Morgan counties in central Illinois, where the project is located.
Additionally, State Farm and PPG will purchase zero-emission, renewable energy from the Double Black Diamond solar project. Illinois-based State Farm will procure approximately 103,000 MWh of energy per year from Constellation, as part of the insurance company’s continued efforts at reducing its overall impact on the environment. The energy purchased by State Farm is the equivalent to what is currently used to power eight of State Farm’s corporate facilities in Bloomington, including its corporate headquarters and operations center.
News item from Swift Current Energy
Green Ridge Solar says
While the use of agriculturally productive land for solar panels can be controversial, the expansion of clean energy infrastructure and community resilience is convincing for many. And in the end, many farmers welcome the diversification of profit inputs and the ability to better utilize underproducing land.