A solar project in Illinois is a model for how the future of renewable energy could look. Four years ago, the Illinois Municipal Electric Agency (IMEA) decided to diversify the organization’s power generation portfolio by adding a renewable source of electricity through a solar demonstration project in Rantoul, Illinois.
Following a competitive bidding process, Cat® dealer Altorfer won the right to install, operate and maintain a 1,000-kilowatt solar photovoltaic (PV) system that is currently fulfilling a 20-year power purchase agreement with IMEA. The installation uses thin-film solar modules from Caterpillar that generate more energy and have higher energy yield performance over conventional silicon solar panels. Fully scalable and pre-engineered for quick and easy installation, the system offers reliable and predictable energy in all climates and applications with modules that are independently tested to pass accelerated life and stress tests beyond industry standards. The system also includes the Cat microgrid master controller, which leverages Cat Connect technology. This technology remotely reviews key data elements, applies data science modeling along with artificial intelligence to produce insights to optimize energy management and leverage the benefits of the renewables installed.
In its first year of full-capacity operation, the solar facility in Rantoul produced 1.65 million kilowatt-hours of electricity, enough to power approximately 145 homes, or up to 1 percent of Rantoul’s total power need. As the facility demonstrates its economic viability and the capabilities of its advanced technologies, local officials have noted that the site has been configured to allow for the installation of additional solar power generating capacity.
The IMEA has showed continued confidence in Altorfer and Caterpillar by commissioning a 500 kW solar PV utility-scale demonstration project in St. Charles, Illinois, under a power purchase agreement as well. Featuring more than 4,800 Cat thin-film solar panels, the St. Charles facility is expected to produce approximately 650,000 kWh annually.