Clean energy deal means renewable power for Chicago buildings

Clean energy deal means renewable power for Chicago buildings

The city of Chicago has reached a deal worth up to $422 million to partially power some of its biggest buildings with solar energy starting in 2025, a move aimed at combating climate change, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced on Monday.

As part of a contract with retail electricity supplier Constellation, the city will buy solar energy that will partially power Chicago’s airports, the Harold Washington Library Center and the Jardine Water Purification Plant starting in 2025, the city said.

The energy will come from a new solar generation installation currently being developed by Swift Current Energy in Sangamon and Morgan counties downstate, the city said. Construction on the project is expected to start later this year, according to the city.

“We must work as hard as we possibly can to mitigate the disastrous effects of climate change which we see manifest almost every single day across the country and across our world,” Lightfoot said at a news conference Monday.

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The announcement comes months after Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed legislation that aims to put Illinois on a path to 100% carbon-free energy by 2050, with coal, oil and natural gas power plants scheduled to close over the coming decades. It also seeks to boost the development of wind and solar energy across the state, put more electric vehicles on the road and make it easier for Black and Latino workers and businesses to enter the renewable energy industry.

By and large, coal plants would have to shut down by 2030, while natural gas plants would have until 2045. But in the meantime, the measure also called for a nearly $700 million bailout of three nuclear power plants owned by the parent company of Commonwealth Edison, plagued by a jobs-for-bribes scandal that has led to millions of dollars in fines for the electricity giant and a series of criminal indictments, including against former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Pritzker and Lightfoot celebrated Chicago’s partnership with Constellation in a rare show of synergy between two elected officials who are in the midst of reelection bids. Pritzker said the solar energy project would create nearly 1,000 new jobs.

“In the next few months, we will begin construction on the largest utility scale solar generation facility in Illinois’ history,” Pritzker said. “And by 2025, hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans will get their energy needs met by an entirely renewable energy source. It’s momentous.”

The federal budget package approved by the U.S. Senate Sunday also includes hundreds of billions of dollar in initiatives to address climate change. The legislative must still pass the House of Representatives.

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