Swift Current Energy raises US$779 million for Double Black Diamond solar project in Illinois

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A render of the Double Black Diamond solar project, showing First Solar Panels and single-axis trackers. Credit: Swift Current Energy

US electric utility Swift Current Energy has closed financing for its 800MWdc/593MWac Double Black Diamond solar project west of the Illinois state capital Springfield, having raised US$779 million in funding.

The latest funding round was led by US bank Truist, and a pair of financial services firms, the Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG) and Société Générale, which are based in Japan and France, respectively. The funding consists of US$695 million in construction and tax equity bridge loans and the establishment of a credit facility worth US$84 million, which could prove vital financial support for a project nearing completion.

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Swift Current Energy announced that a number of organisations had signed agreements to acquire some of the power that will be produced by the Double Black Diamond project. US energy supplier Constellation will purchase power, as will the city of Chicago, although Swift Current Energy did not specify capacity or financial details of either deal.

While the project’s backers are based around the world, the solar facility’s components have largely been sourced from US manufacturers. Swift Current Energy noted that the “majority” of the project’s 1.6 million solar panels will be manufactured in the US, with domestic suppliers First Solar providing the modules, and Nextracker delivering single-axis solar trackers.

“MUFG is proud to continue our partnership with Swift Current Energy with this new deal,” said Louise Pesce, managing director of project finance at MUFG. “This transaction demonstrates our bank’s commitment to supporting the climate transition economy through offering financing solutions for renewable energy projects. We look forward to working on more renewable energy projects in Swift Current Energy’s pipeline.”

Swift Current Energy began construction of the project in spring this year, and aims to bring the facility online in autumn 2024.

The company’s emphasis on domestic production is clearly influenced by the Inflation Reduction Act, the landmark legislation that has sought to encourage greater domestic investment in solar manufacturing, and has contributed to a massive increase in solar capacity addition this year.

In the second quarter of this year alone, the US solar industry added 2.7GW of new capacity, accounting for 59% of new renewable power additions in the quarter, according to the American Clean Power Association.

Projects such as these could also benefit the Illinois solar sector as a whole, which has struggled to keep up with new solar installations in other states. According to the US Solar Energy Industries Association, Illinois had the eighth-largest solar capacity of any state in 2022, but this has since fallen to 15th-largest this year.

The trade body estimates that Illinois will add 6.5GW of new solar capacity over the next five years, ninth-most in the country, and projects such as Double Black Diamond will help meet these expectations.

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