Environmental Study Group: Solar power shines on Illinois

By Kay Day

In a single hour, the amount of power from the sun that strikes the Earth is more than the entire world consumes in a year! Wow, isn’t that statistic amazing? Yet solar power only makes up about 8% of the renewable energy consumed in 2018. That is about to change across the country and especially here in Illinois!

An important piece of legislation called the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) became effective in 2017 and provides incentives promoting renewable energy, job training for new energy jobs and mandates the largest utilities to have 25% of power generated from renewable sources like wind and solar. The utilities count on the solar panel owners to provide the renewable energy to meet this target.

Solar has become more affordable for residential, farm, and commercial applications. If you look around Freeport and Stephenson County you will see more and more solar arrays on rooftops and ground installations. Rafters, Lena Brewing and Highland Community College have recently installed large solar arrays. The city of Freeport is planning to power the wastewater treatment plant with solar, providing significant savings to the city on the cost of electricity.

Freeport also has received the Solsmart designation which recognizes cities, counties and regional organizations for making it faster, easier and more affordable to go solar.

The incentives to go solar are excellent right now and can cut the cost of a solar installation by 50% or more. For 2019 the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is 30% of the solar system’s cost as personal income tax credit. As Illinois residents, additional financial benefits are available through the state’s solar renewable energy certificate (SREC) market. As an owner of a solar panel system, you can sell the SRECs that your panels produce to help the state meet the renewable energy requirement of 25% by 2025.

The value of the SRECs are estimated on the electricity production of your solar panels and paid to you upfront based on a 15-year contract. This can be a significant amount of money that can be applied against the cost of the solar system. In addition, your monthly electricity bill will be significantly reduced. On a sunny day you will produce electricity credits that will offset the energy used when it’s dark or cloudy. Wouldn’t you love to see your meter run backward?

With these incentives in the works, it’s a great time to start evaluating your solar options. There are several local solar companies that can provide guidance on what solar can do for you. They are glad to provide an estimate for a solar system based on your electricity usage. Stateline Solar, Fosler Solar, and Eagle Point Solar are several that have installed systems in this area.

Even if solar is not a possibility for you, it is important to promote renewable sources of energy in order to save our planet. Renewable energy plays an important role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and it is clean energy as opposed to coal, oil and natural gas.

One way you can help is to support legislation currently pending like the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA). It was developed with the input on energy policy of everyday Illinoisans like you. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Promote jobs and economic opportunity across the state.
  • Put Illinois on a path to 100% renewable energy by 2050.
  • Reduce the equivalent of 1 million gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles from the road.
  • Achieve a carbon-free power sector by 2030.

Please call Sen. Brian Stewart and Rep. Andrew Chesney at 815-232-0774 and ask them to support CEJA (SB2132/HB3624). Clean energy must be the way of the future.

Read the entire piece at the RR Star.