Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service
October 2, 2015
Living off the sun’s power may seem futuristic, but it’s a reality for many Illinoisans. During the Illinois Solar Power Tour on Saturday, more than 80 businesses and homes around the state will showcase their use of solar arrays and other renewable-energy installations.
Lisa Albrecht, a renewable-energy specialist for the Illinois Solar Energy Association, said the tour provides an opportunity to speak one-on-one with people who use solar power systems about their experiences with it. With more than 55 megawatts of solar capacity currently installed in the state, she said, solar is becoming a popular, cost-effective energy option.
“Pricing for solar is down about 65 percent in the last four, five years,” she said, “so we’ve seen a tremendous uptick in volume of interest and people who are actually purchasing and installing them.”
Illinois is ranked 25th nationally in installed solar capacity, according to the Solar Industries Energy Association, with enough generation to power 8,000 homes.
Sarah Wochos, Midwest co-legislative director for the Environmental Law and Policy Center, said a Clean Jobs Bill could really accelerate solar growth in the state. Supported by hundreds of businesses, labor and environmental groups, she said it would promote energy efficiency and carbon regulation. She said it also could improve the state’s renewable-energy standard, which she believes hasn’t worked well.
“So we’re trying to fix it and also increase it because we’ll need more renewable energy to meet that Clean Power Plan, that carbon-mitigation plan that the president has put out,” she said, “but it also brings great jobs and economic-development opportunities to the residents and businesses of Illinois.”
Some opponents of the Clean Power Plan argue it would raise electricity rates and kill jobs. But Wochos contends that increasing Illinois’ renewable-energy and energy-efficiency standard could create 32,000 new jobs a year in industries such as solar and wind generation, in addition to the 100,000 clean-energy jobs in the state today.
The tour will run from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at sites around Illinois. More information online at IllinoisSolarTour.org.