Coal to Solar Scheme Awards Grants for Almost 300MW of Energy Storage

On average, coal power plants generate around 45% of America’s electricity. Coal is one of the cheapest and most abundant sources of electricity, allowing energy providers to generate electricity at relatively little cost.

However, coal is also one of the largest emitters of carbon on the planet. In a bid to arrest greenhouse gas emissions, entities around the world are moving away from coal to more renewable sources of energy.

In Illinois, for example, the state government is incentivizing the transition from coal power to green electric energy by providing companies with millions of dollars in grants. The state will award up to $280.5 million in grants to companies that commit to building new battery energy storage facilities on old coal power plant sites.

The grants will be provided by the recently passed Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA). The bill is part of Illinois’ efforts to achieve 50% renewable energy by 2040 and 100% carbon-free electricity production by 2050.

One of the bill’s main focuses is a transition away from coal via the Coal to Solar and Storage Initiative. The initiative will provide funding of up to $28.05 million per year at $110,000 per megawatt of storage capacity.

Officials have already selected five projects and will be paying out the grants over a 10-year period. Two companies with 72MW energy storage projects will each be awarded $79.2 million in grants while three companies with smaller 37MW energy storage projects will receive $40.7 million each.

NRG Midwest Storage plans on building two energy storage facilities and will receive $79.2 million for each project. Dynegy Midwest Generation, Electric Energy Inc. (Vistra) and Illinois Power Resources Generating LLC (Vistra) will receive $40.7 million in grants each.

Vistra Energy CEO Curt Morgan welcomed the Coal to Solar scheme, lauding it for being the first program in the country to begin the transition from coal power plant sites to renewable energy centers. Although Vistra Energy acquired its Illinois coal power plant in 2018, it has stated that it already plans to shut it down by 2027.

Each of the coal plants that has been selected for the grant program is also in the process of shutting down, said the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO). The department has been charged with overseeing the transition from coal to battery storage.

Stationary energy storage will be critical for a smooth transition to cleaner sources of energy. DCEO director Sylvia I. Garcia said that the Coal to Solar Energy Storage program will be critical to shoring up the electrical grid, helping the environment and strengthening the economy.

Before different jurisdictions can make the switch to green forms of energy, there will be a thriving market for coal from mining companies such as Warrior Met Coal Inc. (NYSE: HCC).

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