California firm takes majority share of wind farm project

California firm takes majority share of wind farm project

KEMPTON — A California company announced Tuesday it has secured majority ownership of the first phase of a wind farm to be built this summer in East Central Illinois.

San Diego-based EDF Renewable Energy said on its website that it has secured a 96 percent stake in the first phase of the Pilot Hill Wind Project, formerly known as the K4 Wind Farm, from its co-developers — Oakland, Calif.-based Orion Energy Group LLC and Cincinnati-based Vision Energy LLC.

Project developer Jon Baker of EDF Renewable Energy said the acquisition means 96 percent of the investment in the wind farm's first phase will come from EDF.

The proposed 199-turbine, 340-megawatt wind farm is expected to cover portions of Ford, Iroquois and Kankakee counties. Construction of the 175-megawatt first phase, which includes 61 turbines in Kankakee County and 42 in Iroquois County, is expected to start by early August. There is no set timeline for construction of Phase II, which includes up to 96 turbines in the Kempton area in Rogers Township in Ford County.

Also Tuesday, Microsoft Corp. announced it has reached a power purchase agreement with EDF Renewable Energy to buy up to an estimated 675,000 megawatt-hours of renewable energy from the Pilot Hill Wind Project for each of the next 20 years, starting in 2015. The power purchase agreement means EDF will receive a fixed payment for energy produced by the wind farm and sold to the electric grid.

"It provides certainty to the project owner what the revenue will be," Baker said.

Microsoft officials said the power will be bought, in part, using proceeds from Microsoft's carbon fee.

"We'll be buying 100 percent of what the project is producing," said Brian Janous, director of energy strategy for Microsoft. "We'll purchase whatever the wind project produces. The way that these agreements work is there's no guaranteed production — when the wind blows, we're going to be buying the energy off of those turbines, and if it's not blowing, there's none for us to buy."

This is the second — and largest — investment in wind energy for Microsoft, said Rob Bernard, the company's chief environmental strategist.

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