Five Illinois coal plants that are currently closed or in the process of ending their coal operations are expected to begin operating energy storage facilities in 2025.

To boost this effort, the state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) announced $280.5 million in funding over ten years for the five plant sites. The dollars come from Illinois’ “Coal-to-Solar Energy Storage Grant Program,” which in part incentivizes companies to install energy storage at the sites of former coal plants.

NRG Energy will receive a combined $158.4 million to build energy storage projects, each 72 MW in size, at the Waukegan and Will County coal-fired plant sites.

NRG is expected to retire both Waukegan Units 7 and 8, totaling more than 600 MWs­, and the 599 MW Will County Unit 4 in 2022. The units are the last of the coal-fired capacity at those respective plants, as other units were 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 decided to retire Joppa 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 first unit entered into operation in 1953 and a second unit two years later, according to reports. It is a 1,000-MW subcritical coal-fired facility.

The nearly 650 MW E.D. Edwards plant is also expected to be retired by the end of the year. Edwards has been in operation since 1960, according to reports. Unit 1 was retired in December 2015. Unit 2 and 3 were brought online in 1968 and 1972, respectively.

The 434-MW Havana plant was retired in late-2019.

"When it comes to Illinois' clean energy future, this initiative will help deliver on the progress our residents deserve," said Illinois Governor JB Pritzker.

The grant program is part of Illinois’ Climate & Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA) passed in 2021 and aimed at moving the state toward 100% clean energy by 2050. The first payments would be issued in 2025 when the energy storage sites are expected to be commercially operational.  

In order to qualify for grant money, the plants 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 program, while the Illinois Power Agency (IPA) will oversee a program to incentivize the production of solar energy and co-located energy storage.

DCEO is also in the process of implementing several workforce training programs, grants for communities impacted by the energy transition and programs to support historically underrepresented contractors in the green energy space.

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