Tech firm Salesforce said it will back the construction of a new renewable energy wind farm in McLean County, a project that has been in the planning stages for 10 years.
The Bright Stalk Wind Farm will be built near Bloomington-Normal, and owned and operated by EDP Renewables North America, the Houston-based company behind five other renewable energy projects in Illinois. Bright Stalk will produce enough electricity to power 71,000 average homes, the company said.
The 15-year deal will allow Salesforce to balance out a portion of the energy the company consumes from its offices and data centers with “renewable energy.
EDP Renewables hopes to begin construction on the roughly $300 million project by next spring, according to Ryan Brown, EDP Renewables’ North America executive vice president, Eastern Region & Canada.
The deal helps solidify the company’s presence in Illinois, Brown said. “This is an area of the country where you have very strong wind resources and communities and landowners with an interest in hosting new projects,” he said.
Salesforce executives declined to disclose the size of the wind farm investment.
Salesforce, based in San Francisco, has plans to expand its presence in the Chicago area. The company already employs nearly 1,500 workers in Chicago. It is in talks to take up to 500,000 square feet of new office space on the north side of the Chicago River.
The wind farm’s location in rural McLean County is important because it is halfway between Salesforce’s data centers south of Chicago and near Indianapolis. While the wind farm may not power Salesforce’s Midwest operations, it helps offset the number of megawatt-hours used by the business. For each megawatt-hour of electricity produced by the wind farm, Salesforce earns the revenue generated by the electricity and a renewable energy credit.
In recent years, other businesses have upped their investments in renewable energy. In 2016, Chicago-based Invenergy partnered with Google to support the tech firm’s large data center operations. In 2015, Amazon invested in a wind energy farm near Lafayette, Ind.
In 2015, Salesforce committed to powering 100 percent of its operations with renewable energy by 2022. “Our real end goal is a fully de-carbonized (electricity) grid globally,” said Patrick Flynn, the company’s vice president of sustainability.