EcoGrove Wind Farm represents Acciona’s first renewable energy project in the state of Illinois although the company is headquartered in nearby Chicago. Well known for its “Windy City,” Illinois currently ranks in the top 20 U.S. states for wind energy potential.
Using 67 Acciona Windpower 1.5 MW wind turbines, EcoGrove Wind Farm is able to generate enough clean energy to power over 25,000 U.S. homes and offset approximately 176,000 tons of CO2 emissions annually.
The EcoGrove facility is spread across more than 7000 rural acres. With the exception of the small footprint made by the 67 wind turbines, at less than one acre each, land use is dominated by farming which coexists with the wind energy production.
Acciona will hold an invitation-only dedication ceremony and luncheon at the EcoGrove Wind Farm to thank the many partners, landowners, and local community and state officials that have made this project possible. Representing the State of Illinois will be Stephen J. Konya III, Chief of Staff of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
Acciona will also present superintendents from Lena-Winslow and Warren school districts each with a $5000 annual scholarship fund for deserving high school seniors planning to pursue a secondary education leading to a career contributing to sustainability.
Acciona will then host a community-wide open house on-site at EcoGrove on Saturday, September 19, to celebrate and educate the community on the renewable energy source in their backyard. Citizens can enjoy refreshments while taking bus tours of the farm and even going inside the base of a turbine. Children can participate in crafts and other educational and recreational activities to learn more about wind energy.
“EcoGrove has truly been a community effort and we are honored by how Stephenson County has rallied to support EcoGrove and ACCIONA,” said Duprey. “Dedicating our first renewable project in Illinois, home state of our North American headquarters, is a very important step for ACCIONA. We are dedicated to harnessing the vast potential of renewable energy across North America and we are thrilled to have such an exemplary project here in our own backyard.”
The EcoGrove project serves as an excellent example of the impact wind energy can have on the local and regional economy. The turbines used at EcoGrove come from neighboring Iowa, manufactured in ACCIONA’s West Branch turbine manufacturing facility.
The project itself was constructed by 125 local trades people and numerous local and regional suppliers and service providers like The Morse Group based in Freeport and Boldt Construction based in Oak Brook. Nine of the 10 service technicians filling the project’s newly created jobs are from the local area and include volunteer firemen, retired military personnel, welders, machinists and a racecar driver.
In addition to being the source of local suppliers, construction support and skilled employees, Stephenson County made its own investment in the EcoGrove project earlier this year when 14 taxing districts unanimously approved a tax abatement for the project. This tax abatement, a sales/use tax exemption and other incentives were part of the State of Illinois Enterprise Zone Act for which the EcoGrove project met the criteria. This support is critical given the upfront investment needed for wind energy projects like this one.
“The process leading to the establishment of EcoGrove in Stephenson County was challenging yet extremely collaborative. Our shared vision included the coexistence of renewable energy technology with agricultural and rural neighbors,” said John Blum, Chairman of Stephenson County’s Board of Supervisors.
“EcoGrove represents a significant shared investment by Acciona in conjunction with the taxpayers of Stephenson County. We anticipate a tremendous future return on this investment in the form of new jobs, new business, new educational programs, and more opportunities to further develop our renewable energy resources. We welcome Acciona not only as a partner, but as a new neighbor.”
Mike Thill, landowner and host to six of EcoGrove’s 67 wind turbines, said of his experience working with Acciona: “I think ACCIONA is a top notch company. They’ve done everything they said they would do from the beginning and all through construction, including treating my tenants very well that farm my land. Right from the very beginning, I felt this wind project was something we needed to be doing to be less reliable on foreign energy. Wind is clean, renewable and it always blows. EcoGrove will also provide tax dollars to the local economy which will be great for our community.”
“The State of Illinois will have communities like this one to thank for any success it has in growing its green economy and reaching its renewable energy goals,” said Duprey. “It is communities like this one that shoulder that challenge and are on the front line of the state’s economic and energy transition. They deserve not only Acciona’s gratitude, but also the gratitude of Illinois.”
Construction of the wind farm, including turbine erection, was managed by The Morse Group. The project was acquired by Acciona from EcoEnergy LLC who continued to serve the project in a development and consultative capacity through the completion of the project. The completed EcoGrove Wind Farm will create approximately 10 new permanent local jobs. As many as 125 people were employed during the construction phase. Long-term lease agreements have been completed with 71 landowners. Additionally, the EcoGrove Wind Farm will provide increased revenues for Stephenson County through investments in local infrastructure, lease agreements with local landowners and property tax revenues from the project over its lifetime.
Acciona Energy is a world leader in renewable energies with a major presence in the main clean technologies. In wind power it has installed 6,037 MW, owned by the company and other companies, and it produces wind turbines using proprietary technology. As of December 31, 2008, the company had installed 65 MW of concentrating solar power plants and 115 MW of photovoltaic power. It also owns and operates three biomass plants (33 MW) and 19 small hydro power stations (59 MW). In biofuels, it produces biodiesel from vegetable oils and bioethanol from wine-surplus alcohol. www.acciona-na.com