A one megawatt solar demonstration project, commissioned by IMEA and constructed by Altorfer on the former Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul, produced its first few kilowatts of electricity on December 13. The facility is on track to be placed in service in early 2017.
Construction began in late summer with the initial site preparations. But the pace of construction accelerated in late October and early November when the panels and racking went up.
In cooperation with ITG Construction and Glesco Electric, based in Champaign, the generation facility has been developed and will be operated by Altorfer Inc., headquartered in Bartonville, Illinois, with a local service center in Urbana. Altorfer will sell the facility’s electric output to the IMEA under a 20-year power purchase agreement, thus procuring a carbon-free power source for the benefit of all IMEA-member cities. IMEA has the option of purchasing the facility after six years of operation.
The facility, which is built on an eight and a half-acre site near Heritage Lake Park and the University of Illinois Transportation Lab in the southeast area of the former Chanute Air Force Base, features a solar photovoltaic (PV) system powered by advanced thin-film solar modules that are setting the industry benchmark with improved performance over conventional silicon solar panels.
The Rantoul solar field system is expected to produce an estimated 1.6-million kilowatt hours of electricity per year. That’s enough to power about 145 homes, which is about 2 percent of Rantoul’s need. “You would need about 40 of these to match our summer peak load,” Rantoul Public Works Director Greg Hazel recently told a reporter from the Rantoul Press. Rantoul’s role is primarily to serve as a host site “on an underutilized area of the former base,” Hazel said. Other than providing the land for the demonstration site, the village’s role has been to extend an electric distribution line about 700 feet to the solar field.
The project is a learning process for everyone involved — “not only of the technical operation, but also the collaborative nature of the agreements and the success of the contractors in developing these sites,” said Hazel. And there is a possibility Rantoul’s solar field will someday expand. “We’re just blessed to have the available space at the time of need,” Hazel said. “We’re excited to get this type of renewable (facility) in our community and serve as the host site for it.”
IMEA is planning a dedication ceremony in the Spring, likely to coincide with Earth Day. We will provide more details as plans firm up.
IMEA Newsletter | Winter 2016 Edition