Developer begins construction on 800 MW Illinois project with U.S. made components


Swift Current Energy, a Boston-based solar and wind project developer, has kicked off construction on the Double Black Diamond solar project in Illinois, an 800 MW(dc) utility solar project that is vying for the recognition of being one of the top three largest U.S. solar projects.

The project is slated for commercial operations by Fall of 2024, and when operational will be owned by the developer. First Solar is providing 1.6 million U.S.-made solar panels and Nextracker is supplying its U.S.-made tracking systems for the project.

The developer recently tapped McCarthy Building Companies as the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor on the massive project. During construction, expected to last 14 months, the companies will retain 435 construction workers for the Double Black Diamond project.

The midwestern project checks off a few additional boxes for Inflation Reduction Act initiatives and rebates. The project has set apprenticeship, as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion hiring goals, which are being facilitated with local unions for carpenters, laborers, operators, electricians, and crew leads.

In partnership with local unions, McCarthy will train workers who are inexperienced in utility-scale solar construction to assist with future workforce needs and accommodate the exponential regional and national growth of the solar industry.

Once operational, Double Black Diamond will provide enough clean energy equivalent to more than 85,000 Illinois households per year.

In collaboration with Constellation Energy, the City of Chicago will be a key offtake customer. Starting in 2025, the city will partially source its large energy uses such as Chicago O’Hare International Airport and Midway International Airport with renewable energy from Double Black Diamond. The project is expected to bring $100 million in tax revenue to the Counties of Sangamon and Morgan counties, where the project is located.

“As one of Double Black Diamond’s largest end users, the City of Chicago is proud to support a project that will generate solar energy right here in Illinois and will be constructed according to our shared labor and equity goals,” said Angela Tovar, chief sustainability officer for Chicago’s Office of Climate and Environmental Equity.

Additional offtake customers for the large project include State Farm Insurance and PPG, a producer of paints, coatings and specialty materials. State Farm will procure about 103,000 MWh of clean energy per year from Constellation as part of the insurance company’s continued efforts to reduce environmental footprint.

Formed in 2016, Swift Current Energy is a utility-scale developer whose management team has developed a combined 10 GW of renewable energy projects over its career. In April 2021, the company was acquired in a majority stake transaction by Buckeye Partners and Nala Renewables, both of which are backed by IFM Investors, an Australian infrastructure fund manager with $68.4 billion of assets under management.

A midwestern rivalry has also emerged for the development of the largest U.S. utility solar project. Savion, a Shell Energy-backed solar and wind developer, is constructing its own 800 MW utility solar project, Oak Run Solar, located in Madison County, Ohio. If approved, construction on the project will begin this year, with commercial operations coming online in phases starting in early 2025. The solar project will also include 300 MW of Tesla energy storage systems, which is expected to have a 20-year lifespan.

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