The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) has announced $280.5 million in funding over ten years for five of the state’s coal-fired plants that are currently closed or in the process of ending their coal operations. The grants come from Illinois’ Coal-to-Solar Energy Storage Grant Programme whose purpose is to incentivise companies to install energy storage at the sites of former coal plants. The benefiting generators are expected to begin operating energy storage facilities by 2025.
NRG Energy will receive a combined $158.4 million to build two 72 MW energy storage facilities at its the Waukegan and Will County sites. These will be Waukegan Units 7 and 8, totalling more than 600 MW, and the 599 MW Will County Unit 4, all to be retired in 2022. The units are the last of the coal-fired capacity at those respective plants, all other units having been retired years ago.
The other three coal plants are owned by Vistra subsidiaries. They’ll receive a combined $122.1 million to build energy storage projects, each 37 MW in size, at the Joppa, Havana and Edwards coal plant sites.
Vistra had decided to retire its 1000 MW Joppa sub-critical coal-fired plant in the latter part of 2022, as part of a revised agreement to settle a complaint brought by the Sierra Club in 2018. The complaint, to the Illinois Pollution Control Board, alleged environmental violations prior to Vistra’s ownership. Joppa’s two units started operations in 1953 and 1955.
The 650 MW E.D. Edwards plant is also expected to be retired by the end of this year. The three units were brought online between 1960 and 1972. The 434 MW Havana plant was retired in 2019.
The grant programme is part of Illinois’ Climate & Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA) which was passed in 2021 with the aim of moving the state towards 100% clean energy by 2050. The first grant payments are expected to be issued in 2025 when the energy storage sites are due to be commercially operational.
In order to qualify for these grants, the facilities must have burned coal, have a generating capacity of at least 150 MW, and commit to hiring a diverse workforce. DCEO is overseeing the energy storage component of the grant programme, while the Illinois Power Agency (IPA) will oversee a programme to incentivise the production of solar energy and co-located energy storage.