Illinois community solar garden sprouts sun-tracking “smartflower”

Kevin Stark | Energy News Network

The project will be sited in a vegetable garden at an affordable housing facility on Chicago’s South Side.

One of the first community solar systems in Illinois won’t be a run-of-the-mill array of PV panels.

The Renaissance Collaborative (TRC), an affordable housing complex on Chicago’s South Side, is the site of a dense new solar array that will fan out in the shape of a flower to maximize generation.

Known as a “smartflower,” the system is designed to open in the morning and generate power as it mechanically tracks the sun throughout the day. The compact design makes it ideal for a dense city neighborhood, in this case, in a vegetable garden behind TRC’s building.

Patricia Abrams, executive director of TRC, says that sustainability is a core responsibility for the organization, which provides affordable housing and other programs. She said she hopes the array will be a draw for other affordable housing developers in Chicago.

“If you’re going to deal with and provide services for the very low-income people, that means the government is picking up the tab,” Abrams said. “How do you — in the long haul — make that sustainable and affordable? Energy efficiency is one of those things I think is a must”

A post shared by SmartFlower Solar™ (@smartflower_solar) on Aug 15, 2018 at 6:57am PDT

The project is a collaboration with Elevate Energy and Groundswell—both players in the energy efficiency nonprofit space. It is funded in part by Mohawk Group, a carpet and flooring business, as part of a corporate sustainability initiative. The project was announced with a glitzy press conference and ribbon cutting in June.

Elevate Energy’s CEO Anne Evens said in a statement that it’s a goal of the organization and its partners to bring energy cost savings and clean energy jobs to underserved communities. “Together, we can mitigate the climate crisis and improve the economic health of our communities,” she said.

Read the entire article at Energy News Network.