Approval to build the largest commercial airport-based solar power farm granted

Rockford Solar Partners, LLC, a renewable energy development joint venture between Elgin-based Wanxiang America and Chicago-based New Generation Power, received Department of Energy (DOE) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) environmental approval to proceed on America’s largest commercial airport solar farm.

Why the Chicago-Rockford International Airport for such a large 20 MW solar array? The airport has over 70 prime acres to install the solar panels, and Rockford is well known for its other green practices and incentives.

The FAA and the DOE just issued the FONSI “Finding of No Significant Impact” for the 20 MW solar farm at the Rockford Airport. The environmental assessment was prepared by Jennifer Anderson of Rockford-based Anderson Environmental and Engineering Co. with civil engineering done by Kevin Lewis of IG Consulting.

Wanxiang America will supply the photovoltaic solar panels from their newly operating, privately funded solar panel assembly plant which has a solar module production capacity of 30MW per year, and has expansion plans for an additional 60MW of production per year. Panel production is well underway and Wanxiang will ramp up jobs and production as the project expands. This high profile airport solar project will create hundreds of construction, manufacturing and maintenance jobs in Rockford.

Ameren Illinois has also executed a 20-year power purchase agreement with Rockford Solar Partners to acquire the energy and all renewable attributes from the project as part of the Illinois Power Agency’s long-term renewable energy procurement program.

Rockford Solar Partners has committed to scale up the project to 62 megawatts to help meet the demands of the Illinois solar renewable portfolio standard, which projects 6 percent solar by 2015.

In March 2010, The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity awarded a grant of $4,025,000 to Rockford Solar Partners, equivalent to 3.17 percent of the project’s total cost. The remaining 98.63 percent will be financed by nongovernmental sources. The federal funding was awarded pursuant to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Community Renewable Energy Program to create and retain jobs.