Later this year, the vehicle test track at Rivian’s Normal, Illinois, facility is going to get something really cool: a wind turbine that’s hundreds of feet tall. The turbine is rated for 2.8 megawatts, and can generate up to 10 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity annually.
Why do this? I’ll let Rivian answer that:
“To us, our job isn’t done when our vehicles come off the line,” said Andrew Peterman, Rivian Director of Renewable Energy. “While we’re working hard to help electrify transportation, we’re also pushing to accelerate the shift to carbon-free electricity for all. This wind turbine is an early step on that path, and it’s also a beacon of our vision for a clean energy future.”
And, Rivian is living by that quote. Not only is it building the turbine, but the company is also putting up a 783 kilowatt solar canopy array at the factory. So, between the two sources, the plant should get most if not all of its energy from renewable energy. Plus, it will power some of the plant’s neighbors.
This is all part of the company’s overall strategy of putting renewable power where the grid needs it the most instead of, say, putting more renewable energy in California. The energy grid in Illinois is only 11% powered by renewables, so adding a turbine to the area will make a greater impact than it would to add to someplace else with an ample supply. Over the 25 years it’s supposed to run, it could displace as much as 177,000 tons of CO2 emissions, which would be the equivalent of taking 34,000 ICE vehicles off US roads for a year.
Another cool benefit: When a Rivian comes off the assembly line and gets its first charge, that charge will come from solar and wind. After that, what feeds a Rivian truck or SUV will depend on the customer and probably their local grid, but they’re at least getting the vehicle off to a clean start.
Rivian isn’t in the turbine business, so it is working with Apex Clean Energy, a renewable energy company that works around the United States, and is based in Virginia. They’ve already built over 700 megawatts of wind power in Illinois alone, so it’s going to be a very normal process for the company to put up one more turbine at the Normal plant.
The permit application has already been submitted to the local city, and they’re likely to get final approval to put the turbine up this summer.
When finished, the tower will be as high as 510 feet tall, and will have non-reflective white blades. Rivian went the extra mile to not only plan a good installation for their own purposes, but had research done on what the impacts would be to local wildlife from things like blade strikes and light flickering. Impacts were minimized, and the sound is supposed to only be about what you’d get from a home refrigerator.
We’re obviously going to need a lot more renewable electricity to make electric trucks and other electric vehicles the cleanest they can be, but this is a good start and more than most companies would do.
Featured image: Rivian’s Normal, Illinois plant. Image provided by Rivian.
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