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Home / Solar Power / City of Chicago buying 1.8 billion clean kWh per year, mostly from wind

Despite President Trump’s ‘cold feet’ about clean, renewable energy, the city of Chicago is poised to do jump in the deep end: the city has concluded plans to join other green American cities by announcing that by 2025, all city buildings will be powered by renewable energy – the equivalent of 300 wind turbines.

In January, Mayor Emanuel made it public that Chicago had reduced its carbon emissions by 7% from the year 2010 to 2015. In the city’s 2017 budget, they ‘allocate $98.6 million for utility expenses, including electricity and natural gas, and $26 million for vehicle fuel costs, including diesel.’ In this plan they’re going to eventually buy 1.8 billion clean kWh – probably from relatively local wind sources.

Noted in the PR document –

  • Collectively the City, CPS, the Park District, CHA, & CCC used nearly 1.8 billion kilowatt hours of electricity in 2016 – 8% of all electricity in Chicago.
  • The commitment will be met through a combination of acquiring renewable energy credits, utility-supplied renewable energy via Illinois’ Renewable Portfolio Standard, and on-site generation
  • Initial purchases will begin in 2018 and 2019

No where in the 2017 budget does it break out the amount they’re paying per kWh or how much exactly for electricity. In the cities press release it does note that the city is actively negotiating better rates via pooling purchasing, as such, rates being held closely would be appropriate. Additionally, unlike many press releases, the document doesn’t denote the annual savings. I’ll have to speculate on a PPA whose size is way above my personal experience – enjoy!

  • Annual purchase size of: 1.8 billion kWh
  • Local electricity rate of approximately 10-13¢/kWh, City of Chicago probably paying a bit less – $0.08/kWh
  • I’ll guess the city is saving nothing to 2¢kWh – up to $18M in savings annually

While wind can be sourced cheaper than 8¢ – it’s not that simple, since we are talking about a intermittent source of electricity that must exist within a larger electrical grid.

These purchases are significant amounts of money that will drive brokers very hard to source clean energy – to generate this amount of energy would take approximately 400-700MW of wind or 1.5GW of solar power.

In 2015, total retail electricity sales were 3.7 trillion kWh – this purchase represents .05% of US electricity usage. Solar power reached 1.4% of total US electricity in 2016.

The reduction in greenhouse gases and other harmful emissions came at the same time Chicago saw a 25,000 person increase in its population and 12 percent growth in the region’s economy and jobs within the city. The emissions reduction, which was the equivalent of shutting down a coal power plant for eight months, comfortably compares to a one percent increase in nationwide emissions from 2009 to 2014! list of cities from North America who have made the pledge

Chicago’s joins many other green cities – 12 countries, 67 cities and 62 regions/states, sheltering more than 256 million people have indicated commitment towards shifting to 100% renewable energy – and have already achieved their goal or will achieve same in the next few decades.

Commenting on his city’s stance to renewable energy, especially its determination to transit to renewable energy by 2025, Mayor Rahm Emmanuel argued:

As the Trump administration pulls back on building a clean energy economy, Chicago is doubling down. By committing the energy used to power our public buildings to wind and solar energy, we are sending a clear signal that we remain committed to building a 21st century economy here in Chicago.

Also commenting on the development, Illinois Sierra Club President, Jack Darin opined that:

Today’s action is a historic step forward in establishing Chicago as a clean energy leader. By moving boldly to repower its public buildings with renewable energy like wind and solar, Chicago is leading by example at a time when local leadership is more important than ever. While President Trump and his administration would reverse America’s progress on climate change and clean energy, Mayor Emanuel is ensuring that Chicago will move forward, and that its residents will benefit from the good jobs and cleaner air that come from renewable energy projects. We look forward to working with the Mayor, community leaders, and the people of Chicago to achieve this bold goal on the path to eventually powering all of Chicago with 100% clean energy.

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By John Fitzgerald Weaver

John Fitzgerald Weaver is a solar developer; known digitally as the 'Commercial Solar Guy.' As a project developer and installer, he’s sold and managed 50+ solar projects, valued over $25 million, ranging in size from 5kW to 1500kW. He’s been involved in many aspects of the solar supply chain –- as a company founder, developer, project manager, manufacturer, permit runner, salesman, contractor and financier. In his free time he tries to get away and clear his mind by climbing mountains, or more regularly by enjoying an IPA or scotch, and really loves the strange connection between politics, energy, finance, and environment in the energy world.

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