EDP Renewables North America (EDPR NA) and Volt Energy Utility have formed a partnership to develop the 110MW Hickory Solar Park near Jerseyville in the US state of Illinois.

Tech giant Microsoft will purchase electricity and renewable energy credits from the project for 15 years, utilising an environmental justice power purchase agreement (EJ PPA).

Microsoft co-developed the EJ PPA with Volt Energy, an African-American owned utility-scale solar development company.

Volt Energy focuses on making clean energy investments in rural and urban communities disproportionately impacted by environmental injustices.

EDPR NA has also pledged to engage women and minority-owned enterprises in the management and construction phases of the Hickory project.

EDPR NA CEO Sandhya Ganapathy said: “Aligning efforts with partners who share our passion for implementing equitable strategies contributing to local community growth is front and centre of importance to us.

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“Together with Microsoft and Volt, we have the opportunity to prioritise people first by creating jobs and opening doors to women and minority-owned businesses who need to be involved in driving a just clean energy future.”

Volt Energy Utility founder and CEO Gilbert Campbell said: “We are excited to continue our work with Microsoft and partner with EDPR NA for the first time to address environmental injustice, invest in clean energy infrastructure, and facilitate clean energy and sustainability business pathways for minority-owned entrepreneurs and small businesses, as well as students looking to start a career.”

The Hickory Solar Park is not the only project Microsoft has invested in. It has also signed agreements for power from EDPR’s 140MW Wolf Run Solar Park in Illinois and 150MW Cattlemen Solar Park II in Texas, both set to be operational by the end of this year.

Last April, Google entered into an agreement with EDPR to develop 500MW of distributed solar projects across the US, facilitated by EDPR North America Distributed Generation.

As an initiative to promote environmental justice, the two companies agreed on a corporate sponsorship model.