Hickory Solar Park project in Illinois focuses on environmental justice, social equity

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EDP Renewables North America (EDPR NA) and Volt Energy Utility have joined forces on a 110 MWac PV projected near Jerseyville, Illinois.

The companies announced a partnership to launch the development of Hickory Solar Park with Microsoft agreeing to purchase electricity and renewable energy credits (RECs) for 15 years from the project. This arrangement drives concrete action toward the three companies’ shared commitment to an equitable and just transition of the electric power sector.

The agreement for Hickory uses an Environmental Justice PPA (EJ PPA) form developed by Microsoft and Volt Energy, a minority-owned renewable energy developer, focused on making clean energy investments in rural and urban communities disproportionately impacted by environmental injustices – all of whom are behind in securing the benefits of a clean energy economy. 

“Aligning efforts with partners who share our passion for implementing equitable strategies contributing to local community growth is front and center of importance to us,” said Sandhya Ganapathy, CEO, EDPR NA. “Together with Microsoft and Volt, we have the opportunity to prioritize people first by creating jobs and opening doors to women and minority-owned businesses who need to be involved in driving a just clean energy future.”

With this EJ PPA, Hickory will contribute funding to enable the Sharing the Power Foundation to administer funds to mission-aligned programs. The Foundation’s mission is to build the next generation of environment justice leaders through the equitable distribution of opportunities produced by the clean energy economy – all in alignment with the social equity principles of the Environmental Justice PPA.

“We are excited to continue our work with Microsoft and partner with EDPR NA for the first time to address environmental injustice, invest in clean energy infrastructure, and facilitate clean energy and sustainability business pathways for minority-owned entrepreneurs and small businesses, as well as students looking to start a career,” added Gilbert Campbell, founder and CEO of Volt Energy Utility, and foundation board chair for the Sharing the Power Foundation. 

From engaging with community members and local government officials to local organizations and businesses, the Hickory project is oriented to focus on ensuring sustainable environmental, social and economic results are achieved.

The project company will purchase and retire carbon offsets proportionate to the emissions generated by its upstream material components and on-site construction and operations impacts as part of a project-level carbon neutrality pledge. 

To empower the creation of career pathways and training under the partnership, EDPR NA has also committed to ensuring that women and minority-owned businesses serve in prominent leadership roles in project management and construction for Hickory. This adds to EDPR NA’s move to empower workforce development in Illinois through last year’s unveiling of its solar and wind technical training facility in Bloomington, IL.  

This contract expands on EDPR NA and Microsoft’s collaboration that started in July 2019 when Microsoft became an offtaker of EDPR NA’s 125 MW Timber Road IV Wind Farm located in Payne, Ohio. In addition to the Hickory announcement, Microsoft also recently executed power purchase agreements at EDPR’s Wolf Run Solar Park (140MWac, Illinois) and Cattlemen Solar Park II (150MWac, Texas). The projects are currently expected to be operational by the end of 2024.  

EDPR NA’s continued focus in 2024 remains on engaging diverse customers, supply chain partners, and local EPCs and developers who share its passion for a united and inclusive clean energy industry. 

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