IKEA purchase of wind farm won't delay construction

IKEA purchase of wind farm won't delay construction

HOOPESTON — The purchase of the Hoopeston Wind farm by Swedish furniture retailer IKEA will not delay construction on the 98-megawatt project that's expected to be operational early next year.

Though wind energy seems an odd industry for investment by a home furnishings company, the IKEA Group has already put money into wind farms in eight other countries, including Canada, France, Germany and the United Kingdom, as part of the international retailer's effort to produce by 2020 more renewable energy than the total energy it uses.

IKEA will be full owner of Hoopeston Wind in northern Vermilion County, according to IKEA officials. But the wind farm will still be built and managed by the previous owner, Virginia-based Apex Clean Energy.

Apex officials would not disclose the financial details of the sale and management agreement. But it is the intent of both to engage in a long-term partnership, according to an e-mail from Dahvi Wilson with Apex.

The farm is expected to include 49 Vesta-made V100-2.0 wind turbines that will generate up to 380 GWh of energy. That would be the equivalent of 165 percent of the electricity consumed by IKEA's facilities in the United States — 38 stores, five distribution centers, two service centers and one factory. IKEA has two Illinois stores, both in the Chicago area. That amount of energy also would be equivalent to 130 percent of the total energy, electricity and heat, consumed by IKEA's U.S. facilities.

According to Wilson, the wind farm will not be providing energy to IKEA stores and centers, but is part of the company's effort to take the lead in the development of a low-carbon economy.

IKEA Group has also been investing in solar.

The company has installed 550,000 solar panels on IKEA buildings in nine countries, including solar installations on 90 percent of IKEA locations across 20 states in the U.S. and an integrated geothermal component into the heating and cooling system of an IKEA store in Colorado with another geothermal project underway at a new Kansas City-area store slated to open this fall. Last year, the IKEA Group produced 1,425 GWh of energy from renewable sources, including wind and solar, equivalent to 37 percent of the company's total energy needs, according to a news release announcing the Hoopeston Wind purchase.

According to Apex officials, this is a new type of investment partnership for their company and offers opportunities to expand wind development in this country.

Vermilion County Board Chairman Gary Weinard said IKEA's investment is probably a positive. He said Apex was still in the process of securing all the investment money for the project forward and a power purchaser.

"I think it's... an interesting business concept with a big retailer owning its own power-generating capacity," Weinard said.

Hoopeston Wind has endured multiple ownership changes and delays since the project first materialized several years ago.

In early 2011, International Power America Inc. was the original company that submitted an application to Vermilion County for a building permit. After two years of delays, permit extensions and ownership changes, Apex took over the project early last year, and in the last six months, started building the transformer and substation site northwest of Rossville. Apex officials expect to begin construction on the foundations for the wind turbines and the access roads to them this summer with delivery of the turbines beginning just after Labor Day. It will be Vermilion County's second wind farm. Invenergy's California Ridge wind farm, with 134 turbines in western Vermilion and eastern Champaign counties, has been operating for more than a year now.

Apex Wind Energy Inc. is an independent renewable energy company that was founded in 2009 and has assets in both wind and solar energy in the U.S., including a 300 megawatt wind farm outside Oklahoma City completed about a year ago.

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