The Pilot Hill Wind Project 60 miles southwest of Chicago will provide 175 megawatts of clean energy, but is also expected to trigger significant economic development in the region. EDF Renewable Energy and Microsoft are leading the effort, with wind turbines supplied by Council Lead Partner GE.
Microsoft and EDF Renewable Energy, a subsidiary of Council Lead Partner Electricite de France, broke ground on the project earlier this week. It's expected to begin commercial operation early next year.
“We’re not only breaking ground on an exciting, new wind energy facility, we’re leading the way to a clean energy economy,” said U.S. Sen. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) who attended the ceremony. “I applaud Microsoft and EDF Renewable Energy for investing in clean energy and standing on the forefront of positive change and social responsibility.”
According to an EDF announcement, the project consisting of GE 1.7 MW wind turbines, benefits from a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with Microsoft, also a Council Lead Partner. The PPA played a key role in advancing the project by providing the long-term revenue certainty needed to get Pilot Hill off of the ground and into construction.
Committing to a clean energy future
Why is the software giant investing in wind?
“The Pilot Hill Wind Project is important to Microsoft because it helps solidify our commitment to taking significant action to shape our energy future by developing clean, low-cost sources to meet our energy needs,” said Paul Scanlan, Senior Program Manager for Energy Strategy. “Microsoft is focused on transforming the energy supply chain for cloud services, from the power plant to the computer chip. Long-term commitments like Pilot Hill help ensure a cleaner grid to supply energy to our datacenters.”
Added Tristan Grimbert, President and CEO of EDF Renewable Energy: “The participation of companies like Microsoft in renewable energy generation projects points to a growing trend of organizations directly procuring clean energy. Companies are coming to understand that setting renewable energy, energy efficiency, and greenhouse gas emissions reduction commitments can deliver attractive cost-savings benefits while locking in long-term energy price stability."
Providing economic benefits
Project backers say Pilot Hill will trigger significant economic development through the creation of approximately 150 local craft labor positions during peak construction plus long-term operations and maintenance opportunities. In addition, they say, tens of millions of dollars over the life of the project will be provided in the form of lease payments to landowners and property taxes.
With the project's close proximity to Chicago and one of the top-ranking renewable energy training programs in the U.S. at Kankakee Community College, local officials hope Pilot Hill will prompt more investment in renewable energy in the area.
As part of EDF Renewable Energy’s community engagement program the company contributed $15,000 to area organizations. Central CUSD #4, Herscher CUSD #2, and the Community Foundation of Kankakee River Valley each were presented with a check for $5,000.
EDF Renewable Energy is one of the largest renewable energy developers in North America with 5.7 gigawatts of wind, solar, biomass, and biogas projects developed throughout the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.
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