Illinois ‘Coal to Solar’ transition scheme awards grants for 255MW of battery storage

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Power generation companies that have committed to building battery energy storage facilities at former coal power plant sites in the US state of Illinois will get US$280.5 million in grants.

The Senate of Illinois passed the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, committing the state to reaching 50% renewable energy by 2040 and 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050, in September 2021.

Part of that legislation focused on transitioning away from coal and created a Coal to Solar programme, also known as the Coal to Solar and Storage Initiative, with grant funding of up to US$110,000 per megawatt of energy storage capacity, capped at US$28.05 million per year.

Five projects have been selected and were announced at the beginning of this month. Grants will be paid out over a 10-year term. As shown in the table below, three 37MW energy storage projects were chosen alongside two 72MW projects, with the companies behind the smaller projects getting US$40.7 million each per site and US$79.2 million for the larger ones.

Grant awarded toCountyAmount awarded (10-year term)Project size
NRG Midwest Storage, LLC (NRG) – Waukegan Energy Storage CenterLakeUS$79.2 million72MW
NRG Midwest Storage, LLC (NRG) – Will County Energy Storage CenterWillUS$79.2 million72MW
Dynegy Midwest Generation, LLC (Vistra) – Havana Battery Energy Storage SystemMasonUS$40.7 million37MW
Electric Energy, Inc. (Vistra) – Joppa Battery Energy Storage SystemMassacUS$40.7 million37MW
Illinois Power Resources Generating, LLC (Vistra) – Edwards Battery Energy Storage SystemPeoriaUS$40.7 million37MW

Shortly after the Coal to Solar scheme was unveiled last year, Vistra Energy welcomed it, noting that while the power producer had only acquired its Illinois coal fleet in 2018, it was already planning its closure by 2027 at the latest.

Vistra CEO Curt Morgan applauded the state’s strong leadership on the “first-in-the-nation program to transition the state’s fleet of legacy coal plant sites into zero-emission, renewable energy centres,” while highlighting the transition process needs to be smooth for the local economy and workers.

Each of the coal plant sites are already closed or are in the process of closing, according to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, which is overseeing the energy storage portion of the transition programme. Only coal-burning plant sites with a 150MW or higher generation capacity were eligible.

“Energy storage is absolutely crucial to ensuring a smooth transition as more clean energy sources come online and we look forward to implementing the Coal-to-Solar Energy Storage program which shores up our electrical grid, helps the environment and strengthens the economy,” Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) director Sylvia I. Garcia said.

Meanwhile the Illinois Power Agency, which is responsible for oversight of electricity planning and procurement processes for residential and small commercial customers of the state’s three major utilities, will create a scheme to incentivise solar production with co-located battery storage.

Vistra Energy has said that in addition to its three standalone battery storage sites which are receiving the grants, it plans a further six solar-plus-storage projects at other Illinois coal plant sites. The company said it only selected sites for standalone BESS development that were found to be unsuitable to also host solar PV.

First payments to the power producers will be made in 2025, by which time the five storage plants are scheduled to open. “When it comes to Illinois’ clean energy future, this initiative will help deliver on the progress our residents deserve,” Illinois Governor JB Pritzker said.

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