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Solar opportunities for communities

From the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus

There are opportunities related to solar energy to bring to your attention.  Photovoltaic (PV) solar energy systems are becoming more feasible as conditions change in the energy market.   These market conditions are somewhat fleeting unless policies change.

These opportunities and deadlines are:

1. Public facility PV installations for public financed by third parties (Dec 18)

2. Technical assistance in planning a community solar project in Cook County only (Dec 18)

3. Favorable market conditions for residential and business PV installations (through 2016)

1. Public facility PV systems.  Seek third-party investment to develop and maintain a PV solar energy system to power a public facility in your community.  Response by December 18, 2015 is needed.

In the short term, federal investment tax credits for renewable energy combined with market value of renewable energy credits (REC) to be purchase by the Illinois Power Agency (IPA) reduce the cost of PV installation and operation.  Through a power purchase agreement , an agency will host a solar array and buy the electricity generated by it for a period of time, usually 20 years. These mechanisms allow solar developers to assume all the capital and maintenance costs.  Host agencies may enjoy green power at comparable rates to traditional power from the grid.

Important factors that influence the financial viability of such projects include:

a.       facility has a large electricity bill

b.      at least 20,000 ft2 of flat roof space or open ground is available

c.       roof has expected lifespan of up to 20 years

With a number of partners, we are working through the power purchase model with 10 wastewater agencies.  Water utilities are the most promising public sector user for the power purchase agreement (PPA) model.  Do you have a facility that you would like considered for a solar PPA?  Please contact Edith Makra, by December 18 for more information.

2. Community Solar Community solar is a shared system that allows multiple participants to use the energy produced by one solar array.  Participants, such as residents or business buy into the system and receive a credit on their electric bill.  This is new in Illinois so Cook County and Elevate Energy are working together to advance community solar in Cook County.  They are seeking pilot locations and will provide technical assistance to study and evaluate projects for future development.  Apply directly on the Community Shared Solar Site Discovery Portal by December 18. 

3. Residential and Business Solar PV The federal tax credits and the value of the solar renewable energy credits also can reduce the cost of solar energy for community residents and businesses.  Solar developers may be seeking projects in your community.  Direct interested community members to the Illinois Solar Energy Association to find solar contractors working in your area.   Projects planned before March 2016 may be cheaper.  Projects should be planned before tax credits expire in 2017.

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