Chicago’s public buildings could all be powered by renewable energy under a plan announced by Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Aug. 8.
The mayor, along with Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, on Monday said the city has an agreement with Chicago utility Constellation Energy, along with Massachusetts-based Swift Current Energy, a renewable energy developer. The two spoke at a news conference at the Chicago Urban League. The deal would make Chicago one of the world’s largest cities to commit to using 100% renewable energy.
“I am incredibly proud to advance this commitment to transitioning all city operations to 100% renewable energy by 2025,” Lightfoot said. “The signing of this agreement demonstrates that the City of Chicago is leading by example and driving high-impact climate action, building the clean energy workforce of the future and equitably distributing meaningful benefits to foster the local clean energy economy for all.”
Climate Action Plan
Construction of projects related to the plan is set to begin by year-end. Lightfoot touted the plan’s job creation potential in addition to how it would reduce the city’s carbon footprint. “The 2022 climate action plan deepens our city’s longstanding commitment to climate action, and sets a goal of reducing emissions in Chicago by 62% by 2040,” Lightfoot said.
The mayor’s office said the agreement with Constellation will support the purchase of renewable energy for all city facilities and operations by 2025. An initial five-year energy supply agreement is expected to begin in January 2023.
“We are providing a clean energy solution that will help the City of Chicago,” said Jim McHugh, chief commercial officer for Constellation Energy.
Large Solar Farm Project
Lightfoot’s office said the agreement also will enable a supply of renewable energy for major organizations across Illinois. The city in 2025 will begin partly powering large facilities such as the city’s airports and other buildings with renewable energy from solar power, which will be generated from a Swift Current Energy solar farm—the 593-MW Double Black Diamond project—in Sangamon and Morgan counties in downstate Illinois.
The groups on Monday said construction and operation of the solar farm is expected to create hundreds of jobs, and would be among the state’s largest solar projects to date.
“We are thrilled to have the City of Chicago as a key customer for the Double Black Diamond Solar project,” said Matt Birchby, co-founder and president of Swift Current Energy, in a statement. “Double Black Diamond Solar has the capacity to create significant benefits for the State of Illinois. We commend the City of Chicago for their leadership in securing 100% clean, renewable energy for all city buildings and operations and Sangamon and Morgan counties for hosting this project.”
“Double Black Diamond makes Sangamon County a leading generator of clean solar power,” said Andy Van Meter, Sangamon County board chairman, in a statement. “We are pleased to host an infrastructure project of this magnitude that will create meaningful and long-lasting benefits for our area and the state. The project will employ hundreds of construction workers and directly create permanent, high paying positions. It will also create a significant, long-term source of tax revenue for our schools and community.”
The mayor’s office said the city also will purchase renewable energy credits from other sources for its remaining power uses, which could include the electricity supply for small- and medium-sized buildings, and street lights.
—Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).