Cook County Announces First Off-Site Power Purchase Agreement for Renewable Energy
President Preckwinkle, along with representatives from the Bureau of Asset Management and Department of Environment and Sustainability, announced today Cook County’s first power purchase agreement for renewable energy. The agreement was reached as part of a broader transaction with Constellation and Swift Current Energy. Starting in March 2025, Cook County’s asset portfolio will source approximately 24% of its electricity (about 49,000 MWh) from a new, off-site solar project in Illinois. Greenhouse gas emissions savings in today’s terms would save the equivalent emissions of powering 4,733 households each year. In the first year, this energy will cover 100% of the electricity use at 18 Cook County owned-and-operated buildings including health clinics, office buildings, highway maintenance facilities, public safety buildings and warehouses. The agreement will span over 12 years, with the ability to add in new buildings as energy is reduced.
“Any time we can achieve our sustainability goals, while also bringing economic development to our communities, we consider it a huge step forward,” said President Preckwinkle. “The co-benefits secured for this agreement mean investment in jobs, training, and domestic manufacturing, and the energy savings and environmental effects are monumental. I am proud that Cook County is a leader for not just sustainability, but in agreements that benefit the community as well.
Cook County will receive energy and renewable energy certificates (RECs) to match the energy use at 18 county owned-and-operated buildings, including health clinics, office buildings, highway maintenance facilities, public safety buildings and warehouses as part of a long-term agreement with Constellation. Construction of the solar project started in March 2023 and will support 450 Illinois construction jobs, approximately 18 of which will be directly from Cook County’s portion of the project.
Backed by Cook County’s commitment, Constellation has entered into a separate, long-term power purchase agreement to procure 24 MW of renewable energy from Swift Current Energy, who will own and operate the solar site, known as Double Black Diamond Solar, located in Morgan and Sangamon Counties. Double Black Diamond Solar, at 593 MW (800 MWdc), is expected to be one of the largest solar projects in the US.
In addition to this achievement in emissions reduction, Cook County has achieved outstanding co-benefits in this agreement. By requiring developers and retail energy providers to include positive impacts beyond energy, co-benefits create opportunities for the community as well. In this agreement, Cook County has secured support for $432,000 in local solar and energy job training programs, environmental biodiversity and habitat protection for the solar site, and local economic development through job creation. The full project will provide jobs for approximately 450 tradespeople during construction.
“Double Black Diamond will deliver significant benefits to the state of Illinois during both its construction and operation,” said Eric Lammers, CEO and Co-founder, Swift Current Energy. “We are proud to be constructing the Double Black Diamond Solar project with skilled craftspeople and with components made in America, and we are delighted to add Cook County as an important customer.”
Ameresco, the County’s energy procurement consultant, provided valuable advice and support during the selection and negotiation process. Resources and workshops from the American Cities Climate Challenge enabled the County to educate our stakeholders and ensure these community benefits be included with the contract terms as the social and environmental benefits of renewable energy purchases are important to support the County’s goals.
With this agreement, Cook County is meeting several Clean Energy Plan Goals such as helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to the energy use of 4,733 households each year, according to U.S. EPA greenhouse gas equivalencies. Cook County has achieved a 44% greenhouse gas reduction to date from a 2010 baseline, meaning less renewable energy needs to be purchased to meet the Clean Energy Plan commitment for electricity to be 100% renewable by 2030 for County owned-and-operated buildings. The remainder of the County’s goal for building electricity use to be 100% renewable by 2030 will be met by energy efficiency projects, on-site solar installations, and future off-site renewable energy agreements.
To learn more about this agreement, please see this informational video provided by Cook County.