5 Illinois Solar Projects That Made Headlines in 2017

In early December we celebrated the one-year anniversary of the passage of Illinois’ Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA). Our previous blog post shared how FEJA creates programs and incentives to help Illinois reach its goal of obtaining 25% of its energy from renewable sources by 2025.

As we round out that celebration and come to the year’s end, let’s take a look at some of the exciting Illinois solar developments that made headlines in 2017. As you browse our list below, please consider how you, your city, or organization can take advantage of the solar momentum building in Illinois!

1. Solar Group Buy, Madison County, IL

Madison County. Photo credit: StraightUp Solar.

The River Bender reported on the success of Solarize Madison County, a solar group buy program. The program allowed homeowners, businesses, and organizations to join together through bulk purchasing to secure significant discounts. Education offered through “solar power hours” increased the solar literacy in the community and empowered people to make the decision to go solar. The program was made possible by the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) and the Grow Solar Partnership, who partnered with the Village of Glen Carbon, Madison County Sustainability Program, and the Glen Carbon Cool Cities Committee.

(Champaign-Urbana participated in solar group buys in cooperation with MREA in 2016 and 2017 as well.)

2. Vogler Motor Company, Carbondale, IL

In September, Vogler Motor Company made headlines when they shared news of the installation of 1,650 solar panels at their seven southern Illinois locations. The Southern Illinoisan reported that the 1 million dollar project is expected to pay for itself in 5 years.

3. Riggs Beer Company, Urbana, IL

Urbana. Photo credit: Darin Riggs.

According to The Daily Illini, Riggs Beer Company will complete their solar installation project by this year’s end. They are installing 270 solar panels which will provide between 90 and 100 percent of their electrical needs. Riggs was able to make this change by leasing their array from Illini Solar Leasing.

4. Richwood High School, Peoria, IL

The Peoria Journal Star shared news of an October ribbon cutting ceremony that celebrated the 88 panel solar installation at Richwoods High School in Peoria, IL. District staff plan to use the project to introduce students to solar energy technology and careers. The project was made possible by a power purchasing agreement that allows a third-party (Hawk-Attollo, LLC in this case) to own the solar array while selling the solar-generated electricity back to the district at a cheaper rate than the district would otherwise pay. These agreements also allow the third party to use federal and state tax credits and subsidies that a school would not qualify for and the district will have the option to buy the system in the future.

Peoria. Photo credit: David Zalaznik, Journal Star.

(In early December, The Southern Illinoisan reported that the city of Pinckneyville utilized a power purchasing agreement with Straight-up Solar to install solar panels on their wastewater treatment plant).

5. McKinley-Presbyterian Church, Champaign, IL

The unveiling of a solar panel rooftop project at McKinley-Presbyterian Church made headlines in June. The News-Gazette reported that the project grew from discussions between the McKinley Foundation and Faith in Place. Faith in Place, a statewide non-profit with a mission to “empower Illinois people of all faiths to be leaders in caring for the Earth”, has a program dedicated to Energy and Climate. Faith community members interested in installing solar panels are encouraged to contact them for more information and resources.

What to Watch for in 2018

With FEJA’s “Community Solar,” “Solar for All,” and “Solar Pipeline Training” programs ready to take effect, we can expect new and innovative projects to make headlines in 2018. Let’s take a look at what’s to come.

1. Community Solar in Foundulac Township, Tazewell County, IL

A recent Peoria Journal Star article gives us a look at the type of project to come in 2018. The proposed community solar project, made possible by FEJA and subject to approval by local governmental bodies, would be operated by Trajectory Energy on land owned by Foundulac Township. Community solar is made possible by something called “virtual net metering.” Customers subscribe to the solar service for a monthly fee and in exchange receive credit on their bill for the energy produced by the panels.

2. Solar for All Opportunities, Statewide, IL

Midwest Energy News reported on FEJA’s goals and the environmental justice requirements built into the law, including the Solar for All program. According to the article, the program “makes funds available each year to incentivize solar installations in low-income and environmental justice communities — those that have historically been most impacted by pollution including fossil fuel generation. Anyone in Illinois at or below 80 percent of area median income would qualify for incentives, and advocates hope to see solar blossom in struggling rural Illinois towns along with urban communities.”

3. Solar Pipeline Training Program Grant Recipients Announced, Statewide, IL

On December 7, the one-year anniversary of FEJA, Solar Power World shared the recipients of FEJA’s “solar pipeline training program” grants: Elevate Energy, Illinois Central College, OAI and the Safer Foundation. Look for these organizations to make news with their solar training programs across the state in 2018.

Join the Movement and Make Headlines in 2018

Illinois is on the leading edge of a solar movement. Prairie Rivers Network is dedicated to growing our network to advance clean energy projects and policies and decrease our state’s reliance on fossil fuels. Our energy system and our water resources are connected – we cannot protect clean water without moving to a clean energy source.

You can make an impact in your community! Consider contacting one of the many resources mentioned in this article, or if you aren’t sure where to start, contact Amanda Pankau at apankau@prairierivers.org.