EDF Renewable Energy and Microsoft Corp. celebrated the launch of the Pilot Hill wind project with a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday. Located 60 miles southwest of Chicago, the 175 MW wind project is expected to begin commercial operation early in 2015. More than 100 people attended the ceremony, including U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., who called it a historic day for the state of Illinois and the nation.
‘We're not only breaking ground on an exciting, new wind energy facility, we're leading the way to a clean energy economy," said Kelly.
The project, consisting of GE 1.7 MW wind turbines, benefits from a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with Microsoft. EDF says 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.
"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, Microsoft's 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."
Tristan Grimbert, president and CEO of EDF Renewable Energy, added, "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."
According to EDF, Pilot Hill will create approximately 150 local craft labor positions during peak construction, as well as long-term operations and maintenance opportunities. Furthermore, 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, EDF adds.
Mortenson Construction's wind energy group has started on-site construction activities, including construction of all access roads and public road improvements; foundations; turbine erection; operations and maintenance building; collection system; substation; T-line; and the installation of met towers.