Construction starts on the largest solar project in Illinois

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Chicago Construction News staff writer

Swift Current Energy has started construction at the Double Black Diamond solar project in central Illinois, the largest PV project in the state. St. Louis-based McCarthy Building Companies is the engineering, procurement and construction contractor.

Double Black Diamond will use American made components, including 800 MWDC of solar modules from First Solar and single-axis solar trackers from Nextracker. The majority of the project’s 1.6-million solar panels will be manufactured in the United States.

“As America’s solar company, we’re pleased that our responsibly produced solar technology, designed and developed right here in the United States, will power this project,” said Georges Antoun, CCO at First Solar. “This isn’t simply an example of American solar; it’s an example of the potential for Responsible Solar to power growth and decarbonization in the U.S.”

The project is expected to employ 435 craft workers. Crews have started site preparations and peak workforce is expected to be onsite for about 14 months, starting late spring 2023. The project is expected to reach commercial operation by fall 2024, with Swift Current continuing to own and operate the facility.

“As the developer and long-term owner of Double Black Diamond, we are thrilled to prepare for full mobilization of the more than 400 skilled workers who will construct this project,” said Eric Lammers, CEO of Swift Current. “The Double Black Diamond solar project brings together American-based businesses McCarthy, First Solar and Nextracker to construct a market-leading project that we hope will serve as an example for other projects to come.”

The project has set apprenticeship, as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion hiring goals for local unions for carpenters, laborers, operators, electricians and crew leads. In partnership with the unions, McCarthy will train workers who are inexperienced in utility-scale solar construction to assist with future workforce needs and accommodate the regional and national growth of the solar industry.

“We are grateful to be partnering with Swift Current Energy to build Illinois’ largest solar project and helping to deliver upon the sustainability and DEI goals of the Double Black Diamond project,” said Scott Canada, executive VP of McCarthy’s Renewable Energy & Storage team. “With the expansive growth of utility-scale solar construction throughout the country, we are thrilled to be able to facilitate the development of a more diverse workforce while also supporting the state’s sustainability goals — Double Black Diamond truly represents a community impact project for the region.”

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