Chicago now home to the nation’s largest solar power plant

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010
Photo courtesy of Exelon Corporation

Photo courtesy of Exelon Corporation

Name: Exelon City Solar

Location: 1201 W. 120th Street, Chicago, Illinois, 60643 View Larger Map

Company: Exelon Corporation

By Rosie Powers

Chicago’s South Side has been swept by sustainability, now housing the largest solar power plant in the United States.

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley was one of many local officials who were present for the July 21 dedication of the Exelon City Solar, Exelon Corporation’s new solar power plant. Exelon chose to place the plant on 41 acres of brownfield property that had been vacant for over 30 years.

“We are strongly committed to investing in green businesses and industries, because clean energy and green technology will be a major part of the new economy that emerges from the current recession,” Daley said in a press release from the plant’s dedication. “Our challenge now is to seize the future and the opportunities it offers.”

Exelon City Solar’s virtually soundless design features 32,292 solar photovoltaic (PV) panels that convert the sun’s rays into electricity with zero carbon emissions, according to an Exelon press release. The plant will meet the energy needs of up to 1,500 homes in the Chicagoland area, emitting 14,000 megawatt-hours of electricity per year.

“It puts the city on the map for sustainability,” USGBC’s Illinois Chapter Executive Director Doug Widener told GreenBeanChicago. “It’s an opportunity for engagement of the broader community.”

The plant will displace approximately 31.2 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year, according to an Exelon press release. Exelon City Solar also features SunPower Tracker technology, which helps deliver energy from the panels and allows tilting so that one panel does not block another.

In addition to benefiting the environment, the plant will also help Chicago employment by creating jobs for local residents. According to an Exelon press release, the plant will create over 200 construction jobs. Local contractors were also used for various materials featured in the project, including Fabricating & Welding Corp. of Chicago’s South Side.

Greg Del Cotto of Fabricating & Welding Corp. told GreenBeanChicago that a representative from Chicago’s 34th Ward contacted their company and soon found that they were a perfect fit to contribute to the plant.

“They walked through our shop and realized there was a lot we could do as a local business,” Del Cotto said. “Exactly what they needed is what we produce.”

Del Cotto said that the company manufactured the steel fabricated pipes that hold the solar panels. The company also welded the steel railings for the green roof of the building in the Exelon City Solar.

The $60 million plant serves as part of Exelon’s plan to reduce its carbon footprint. The plan, called “Exelon 2020”, strives to eliminate 15 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

“It is a visible example for getting people to understand that solar is possible, and on a large scale, it’s possible and very mainstream,” Widener said.

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