Fund created to encourage wind energy in Illinois

CHICAGO—Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich recently announced the launch of the $4 million Renewable Energy Development (RED) Fund that will support community-scale wind energy projects throughout Illinois.

The Illinois Finance Authority (IFA) will work with community banks and lenders to provide loans and loan guarantees to qualified farmers and farmer co-operatives who construct wind turbines for use as alternative energy. The program begins immediately with a goal to launch community-scale projects by the end of 2006 that will generate new wind-to-energy market capacity across the state.

“Relying more on our homegrown energy sources will not only make our air cleaner to breathe, but will also provide consumers some relief from high gas prices, help make the energy grid more reliable and bring much-needed jobs and economic growth to our rural communities,” said Blagojevich. “This partnership with the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation will help increase our use of one of Illinois’ untapped renewable natural resources and provide an important economic boost to our farmers.”

In the State of the State Speech earlier this year, Blagojevich announced his commitment to a Renewable Energy Standard for Illinois with a plan for the state to get 8 percent of its total electricity supply from renewable energy resources like wind by 2012—up from less than 1 percent today. A recent study by the University of Illinois at Chicago found that Blagojevich’s plan also would create 7,800 jobs by 2012.

The Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation (ICECF) and the IFA worked together to develop the RED Fund to support a primary mission of both organizations: to encourage and support development of renewable energy resources. With the Foundation providing the financial resources, the Authority will use its financing expertise and community banking relationships to help Illinois farming operations obtain access to capital for wind-to-energy projects.

Within the next six months, the IFA will host at least three informational seminars across Illinois to educate farmers, landowners, developers and agricultural lenders about the RED Fund and its requirements. Community banks will be encouraged to lend funds for the development of wind projects that meet the Authority’s qualifying parameters. The same evaluation and approval process currently in use for existing IFA loans and guarantees will be used.

Under the general provisions of the RED Fund, borrowers must contribute a minimum of 10 percent equity and are limited to community-scale projects that are less than 20 megawatts. Projects must be located in Illinois and will be required to meet the specific requirements of the participation loan or loan guarantee being requested.

Blagojevich has also supported wind energy through grants from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO). DCEO has, for instance, provided $250,000 for a wind turbine installed by the Illinois Rural Electric Cooperative in Pike County and a $150,000 grant to Bureau Valley School District in Bureau County.

From the Nov. 23-29, 2005, issue

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