Solar project will include components from American-based companies First Solar and Nextracker
Swift Current Energy (“Swift Current”) is ramping up construction this spring for its Double Black Diamond solar project in central Illinois. The company has contracted St. Louis-based McCarthy Building Companies (“McCarthy”) as the Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contractor. Swift Current has also selected American-based First Solar to provide the 800 MWdc solar modules for the project and American-based Nextracker to provide the smart solar tracker solutions for the project. The majority of the project’s 1.6 million solar panels will be manufactured in the United States.
In coordination with local unions, the project is hiring approximately 435 craft workers to construct the Double Black Diamond solar project, with crews having already begun sitework. Peak workforce is expected to be onsite for approximately 14 months, beginning in late spring 2023. The project is expected to reach commercial operation by fall 2024, with Swift Current continuing to own and operate the facility.
“As the developer and long-term owner of Double Black Diamond, we are thrilled to prepare for full mobilization of the more than 400 skilled workers who will construct this project,” said Eric Lammers, CEO of Swift Current Energy. “The Double Black Diamond solar project brings together American-based businesses McCarthy, First Solar and Nextracker to construct a market-leading project that we hope will serve as an example for other projects to come.”
The project has set apprenticeship, as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion hiring goals, which are being facilitated by local unions for carpenters, laborers, operators, electricians, and crew leads. In partnership with the 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.
McCarthy is responsible for the design, procurement, construction, and commissioning of the solar facility, which represents the largest solar energy project in Illinois and will significantly enhance the region’s sustainable energy infrastructure.
“We are grateful to be partnering with Swift Current Energy to build Illinois’ largest solar project and helping to deliver upon the sustainability and DEI goals of the Double Black Diamond project,” said Scott Canada, Executive Vice President of McCarthy’s Renewable Energy & Storage team. “With the expansive growth of utility-scale solar construction throughout the country, we are thrilled to be able to facilitate the development of a more diverse workforce while also supporting the state’s sustainability goals – Double Black Diamond truly represents a community impact project for the region.”
“As America’s solar company, we’re pleased that our responsibly produced solar technology, designed and developed right here in the United States, will power this project,” said Georges Antoun, Chief Commercial Officer, First Solar. “This isn’t simply an example of American solar; it’s an example of the potential for Responsible Solar to power growth and decarbonization in the US.”
First Solar is expanding its US manufacturing footprint, which currently stands at over 5 GW of annual nameplate capacity with three operating factories in Ohio. The company is expected to reach over 10 GW by 2025, when it completes its new $1.1 billion factory in Alabama and a $185 million expansion of its existing capacity in Ohio. First Solar is also investing $270 million in a new research and development innovation center in Ohio.
“It’s projects like these that have America reclaiming its legacy as an energy powerhouse,” stated Dan Shugar, Nextracker founder and CEO. “We are building this country’s energy security with American-made solar panels on Pittsburgh-made steel.”
Solar trackers rotate panels to follow the sun’s movement across the sky, maximizing output, with gains over 25-30% compared to fixed tilt applications. As part of their expansion efforts, Nextracker has recently established local manufacturing facilities in Chicago and Pittsburgh, overhauling their supply chain and reshoring operations, going from 1 GW to 25 GW of domestic production.
Once operational, the project will provide reliable, renewable energy and offset the equivalent emissions of more than 85,000 Illinois households per year. In collaboration with Constellation, it was announced in August that the City of Chicago would be a key end-user for the Double Black Diamond solar project. Starting in 2025, the City of Chicago will partially source its large energy uses such as Chicago O’Hare International Airport and Midway International Airport as well as certain other large facilities with renewable energy from the Double Black Diamond solar project. Additionally, the project is expected to bring $100 million in tax revenue to Sangamon and Morgan counties in central Illinois, where the project is located.
Angela Tovar, Chief Sustainability Officer in the City of Chicago’s Office of Climate and Environmental Equity, said, “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. Once complete, Double Black Diamond will be a key component in making Chicago one of the largest U.S. cities to power its municipal operations using 100% clean, renewable power while driving meaningful community benefits to our residents.”
Jim McHugh, Chief Commercial Officer, Constellation, added, “We applaud Swift Current Energy for reaching a pivotal milestone in this project that will soon help combat the climate crisis. This clean energy solution will positively impact the City of Chicago and Illinois communities in the transition to a more sustainable future.”
Additionally, State Farm and PPG will purchase zero-emission, renewable energy from the Double Black Diamond solar project. Illinois-based State Farm will procure approximately 103,000 MWh of energy per year from Constellation, as part of the insurance company’s continued efforts at reducing its overall impact on the environment. The energy purchased by State Farm is the equivalent to what is currently used to power eight of State Farm’s corporate facilities in Bloomington, including its corporate headquarters and operations center.
Swift Current Energy is investing in renewable energy to create a sustainable future. Founded in 2016, the company develops, constructs, owns and operates highly competitive, utility-scale wind, solar and energy storage projects across the United States. For more information, please visit swiftcurrentenergy.com.