February 16, 2006

Illinois Rural Electric Cooperative Wins DOE Wind Cooperative of the Year Award

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced that Illinois Rural Electric Cooperative (IREC), a member-owned utility in Winchester, Illinois, will receive the 2005 Wind Cooperative of the Year Award. The utility was cited for its leadership, demonstrated success, and innovation in its wind power program.

The award, sponsored by DOE’s Wind Powering America program in conjunction with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) and the Cooperative Research Network (CRN), was presented today at the opening session of NRECA’s TechAdvantage 2006 Conference and Expo in Orlando, Florida. The Illinois cooperative was one of six rural member-owned utilities nominated this year.

"We congratulate Illinois Rural Electric for its innovation and commitment to wind power and to its members," said the Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. "They have demonstrated how wind power can contribute to a cleaner environment and a stronger local economy and act as a hedge against rising fuel costs. The co-op’s success and ambitious plans suggest that wind power is becoming a mainstream energy resource for America."

"Illinois Rural Electric Cooperative is honored to receive this award," said Sean Middleton, IREC’s manager of engineering. "We would like to extend our sincere thanks to our friends at DOE, USDA Rural Development, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, and the USDA Rural Utilities Service. Without financial support from these agencies, this project would not have been possible. We also extend thanks to the NRECA Cooperative Research Network, The Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives, CH2M Hill, and Vestas Americas, who provided key support. We at Illinois Rural believe that if you can generate electricity from renewable resources at the right price, it’s obviously the right thing to do. Every kilowatt-hour of electricity produced from renewable resources such as wind is one less kilowatt-hour produced by burning fossil fuels."

IREC, the first co-op in Illinois to utilize wind power, serves more than 10,000 consumer/owners throughout 10 western-central Illinois counties. The 1.65-megawatt project was partially financed through federal and state funds, including a provision of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2002 Farm Bill to promote rural renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. The project was completed in May 2005.

A wind resource assessment indicates that Pike County could support as many as 100 turbines, which could add as much as $7 million to the local tax base.

NRECA is the national service organization that represents the nation’s more than 900 private, not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives, which provide electric service to more than 37 million people in 47 states. CRN is a research program dedicated to solving the business challenges of electric cooperatives through the use of technology applications.

Wind Powering America is a DOE program committed to dramatically increasing the use of wind energy in the United States. For more information, visit www.windpoweringamerica.gov.

Previous Wind Cooperative of the Year awardees are Western Farmers Electric Cooperative (Oklahoma), Holy Cross Energy (Colorado), Basin Electric Power Cooperative (North Dakota), and Great River Energy (Minnesota).