Community Solar is Coming to Illinois! Good News for Reducing Your Energy Bill

 In Guest Blogs, Sustainability Strategy, Sustainable Products & Services, Thinking About, Walking the Talk

Greening your energy supply in Illinois just got easier. Thanks to the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) that went into force June 1, 2017, we are about to have Community Solar in Illinois. It has never been easier to partially or completely power your business with clean green solar power. I’ve written this post just for small business owners but it also applies to home owners, nonprofits, local governments and big companies. Everyone in Illinois can participate in the green economy.

Before you invest in solar or wind power, keep in mind the best way to reduce your carbon footprint is to improve energy conservation. Energy not used is the most green. Take a quick inventory…have you converted to LED lighting? Are your thermostat and mechanical systems modern and well maintained? Are your windows and doors well sealed? You can easily reduce your energy consumption by 10-20 percent with conservation measures. There are financial incentives to help pay for lighting retrofits and other equipment upgrades; check your local utility’s website for details.

There are three ways to buy solar power in this new economy we have in Illinois thanks to FEJA. You can 1) Buy a solar system (requires a sunny roof and owner occupied facility in most cases); 2) Lease a solar system or 3) Buy solar power from a community solar garden. Buying from a community solar garden (CSG) is by far the easiest and lowest upfront cost option. It also works for businesses that are leasing their space or have a shady roof.

Community solar gives everyone access to green power. Let’s grow solar!

When you become a subscriber to a community solar garden it’s like joining a CSA (community supported agriculture program) but you’re buying green energy instead of food. The community solar array is built on a church, school, community center, or an empty lot. The host earns income for leasing their roof or grounds. And you as a small business owner can then buy a share of the power that comes from the solar array. Solar PV produces electricity from sunlight and it’s one of the cleanest forms of energy. Solar’s time has arrived because the price of the technology has fallen 75 percent since 2010.

Everyone who buys power from the community solar garden (CSG) is called a subscriber. You can have dozens of subscribers buying power from a single CSG and you can have a single subscriber consume up to 40 percent of the power from a CSG.

There is no limit of the number of people or businesses that can benefit from a single Community Solar Garden.

If you’re a small business owner you can become a subscriber and buy some or all of your power from the CSG. You’ll still have a regular power bill from ComEd or Ameren, plus you’ll have a CSG bill which corresponds to the amount of energy from the CSG array you purchase. Virtual net metering is used to keep track of how much energy you’re gaining from the CSG and that amount is credited back to you on your regular energy bill.

A Community Solar Garden will produce enough electricity power dozens of homes and businesses. And the solar array lasts for 25 years, so once you sign up, you can count on getting clean affordable energy for many years to come. If you move, no problem, your subscription moves with you unless you change utilities or move to another state.

You can read more about community solar and find a developer at the Illinois Solar Energy Association or the Environmental Law and Policy Center. Or just google community solar and you’ll see it’s a real phenomenon in many places including Minnesota, Colorado and Massachusetts.

Illinois has a goal of reaching 25% clean power by 2025 and that’s what community solar is all about – providing clean power to all Illinoisans. Let’s grow solar!

Guest Blog by Tim Montague, Continental Electrical Construction Co.

Read more about community solar:

Community Solar in Illinois – Citizens Utility Board

1.
Illinois’ new community solar program allows Ameren Illinois and ComEd electricity customers to enjoy the benefits of solar energy, even if they can’t install solar …
[PDF]Community Solar: What It Is, and Its Status in Cook County, IL

2.
The U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative is a collaborative national effort that aggressively drives innovation to make solar energy fully cost- competitive …
‘Solar for All’: Can Illinois energy bill live up to ambitious promises …

3.
Sept. 14, 2017 Article – Under the new law, distributed solar and community solar will be incentivized through SRECs, or Solar Renewable Energy Credits, with the …
Illinois utilities begin to design community solar programs under new energy law

Illinois utilities and regulators are putting into motion plans for community solar programs under the state’s Future Energy Jobs Act that passed September 14, 2017

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