ISEA Policy Blog

Welcome to the ISEA Policy Blog. Catch up on the latest issues related to the adoption of solar and small wind energy in Illinois. We welcome your feedback and referral of newsworthy developments. 

  • 23 Aug 2011 2:44 PM | Anonymous

    While renewable energy gains momentum, people tend to think that the larger the energy installment, the better.  Companies invest in fields of wind turbines and solar panels, and these are shown to the public to demonstrate the infrastructure and technology of which the U.S. is capable.  While these large-scale installments definitely have their benefits, small-scale systems may be overlooked!

    Small-scale solar has many advantages compared to large-scale, concentrated solar power systems.  To differentiate the two types, a small-scale system feeds the direct energy load of a given facility.  A large-scale system feeds the energy into a grid, which is then distributed (Read more).

    First, location, location, location!  Small-scale systems are installed on rooftops and grounds of businesses or homes that are otherwise underutilized.  In large-scale solar, the placement of systems covers acres of land, consuming areas that could be used for other construction, agriculture, or wildlife habitats.  As these larger systems are often placed in remote locations, there is also a transmission cost.  This cost is both in the construction of transmission lines and in the energy lost in the transmission.  “According to the EIA, line losses accounted for 6.5% of total electricity generation in 2007” (Read more).  Why not build the solar system directly where the energy is needed?

    Secondly, installing a small-scale system directly where the need is also allows for all areas of the state to benefit.  If a large-scale solar system is constructed in Chicago, will the residents in East St. Louis feel direct benefits?  With distributed solar, residents throughout the state can benefit as they install systems locally.

    A new study, "Solar Power Generation in the U.S.: Too expensive or a bargain?," looks at the benefits that solar power generation delivers to utilities, ratepayers and taxpayers. This study shows that there is anywhere from 3-10 cents/kWh of hidden value specifically derived from distributed solar generation.  This is generally due to reduced distribution energy losses, reduced distribution capacity wear, and enhanced grid stability (Read more).

    But these benefits are just the tip of the iceberg!  Join ISEA for the 2011 Illinois Solar Tour on October 1st to visit some local homes and businesses with small-scale systems and learn more.  The Illinois Solar Tour is a FREE self-guided event that demonstrates how Illinois homes and businesses are using solar, wind, geothermal, passive solar design, and energy efficiency to be energy independent.  Check out the official Solar Tour site and register!



  • 03 Aug 2011 11:06 AM | Anonymous

    When asking Chicago residents why they have not invested in solar for their homes or businesses, what is a common response?  “Have you seen how much snow we get 6 months out of the year?”  The idea that snow detracts from solar energy production is a common one.  With the right solar installation techniques, though, it is not a valid reason to halt solar investment in chillier states.

    Bill Marion, principal scientist in the PV performance and reliability lab and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, CO, studied the effects of snow on PV system performance.  Looking at Boulder, CO and Middleton, WI, he did find that PV output can reach zero when snow is piled on a flat roof. 

    What is the solution? If the roof is not tilted, Marion suggests that a ground-mount system is ideal.  Preferably, one with a good tilt angle and a significant gap between the bottom of the module and the ground to give snow a generous deposition depth as it slides off the glass.  Marion plans to follow snow’s impact on PV output this winter as well, in order to create guidelines on how to mount modules to maximize the amount of snow fall-off.

    With the issue of snow covered, what about the belief that Chicago is too cold and cloudy for efficient solar energy?  In reality Midwest states do experience a good amount of sun. 

    “Michigan has an average of 4.2 hours of peak sunlight per day each year, according to Mark Hagerty, President and Founder of Michigan Solar Solutions. ‘Florida, the Sunshine State only has a little over five hours. Interestingly, Germany leads the world in the percentage of electricity generated by solar, but has less than four hours of peak sunlight a day,’ says Hagerty.”

    Additionally, solar panels are actually more efficient in cooler temperatures than in hot ones (Read more here).

    So what is your excuse for not investing in solar energy?  If you want to see local solar in action, join the Illinois Solar Energy Association’s 2011 Solar Tour!  The Tour is a free public event to demonstrate how home and business owners are utilizing solar, wind, geothermal, passive solar design, and energy efficiency to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels and be energy independent.  Stay updates on the 2011 Solar Tour and other ISEA events through our Facebook and Twitter pages.

  • 08 Jul 2011 2:07 PM | Anonymous

    Solar installations keep getting more and more affordable!  According to a report from Ernst and Young, the price of solar panels could fall to as low as $1 by 2013.  This is $0.50 less than the current cost, which means solar energy could be half as expensive in just two years! 

    In addition to drops in prices, you can also greatly reduce the amount of time you spend researching solar installers, panels, etc.  A new business has formed: solar energy brokering!  It was only a matter of time before the need for these middle men was recognized.  Unfortunately, this broker process is not available yet in Illinois.

    “A solar broker makes the whole process easier, operating like independent insurance agents who educate customers about coverages and help them to identify their particular needs. Solar brokers can also assist with obtaining rebates and incentives. The solar broker acting as an independent agent is an alternative to a direct-sell company that markets and sells directly to the end-customer.”  While the consumer should always remain knowledgeable about renewable energy and installations, having one main contact to guide you through the process could relieve some headaches.

    Another option is to lease solar panels!  Yes, this is another new business venture, in which homeowners are able to lease rooftop panels undefined some with no upfront costs undefined and pay only for the power produced.  At least four large California-based companies offer such leases, in which they install, maintain and continue to own the panels.  One company, SunRun, headquartered in San Francisco, doubled its number of leases undefined to 10,000 undefined in one year and expects to add 12,000 new ones this year.  Unfortunately, this leasing option is only offered in a few cities, where there are financial incentives and high utility rates.  As solar energy expands, though, we can expect to see this spread to Illinois.

    With new solar business ideas emerging, and a decrease in solar panel prices, what is stopping you from investing in solar?  If you want to learn more about solar power for your home or business, check out one of ISEA’s courses! Be sure to stay up-to-date on this growing renewable energy market; follow us on Facebook and Twitter!

  • 15 Jun 2011 9:45 AM | Anonymous

    What is stopping many Americans from investing in distributed solar power?  The price.  Why invest in an installation when the end product will not produce a cheaper form of energy than the average energy grid? Avoiding the numerous environmental and social reasons, this is a major concern for Americans.  According to a recent study, though, over 40 million Americans in the sixteen largest metropolitan areas of the U.S. could reach or even beat grid prices with solar energy!
    The study looks at three different rate design styles, time-of-use pricing, tiered pricing and off-peak flat rate (take a look at the chart here).  In order for distributed solar power to reach grid parity, it is necessary to offer time-of-use pricing.  There also must incentives in place, "including federal accelerated depreciation (for commercially-owned systems) as well as state and utility incentive programs.  These programs substitute taxpayer dollars for ratepayer ones, making the cost of solar to the grid lower."
    The rate design is extremely important in regards to consumer behavior. As Rob Miller of Genability points out, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory released a report in April 2010 analyzing the impact of rate design and net metering on bill savings for distributed PV in California.  This report emphasizes the belief that rate design affects which form of energy people choose.  Net metering also plays a vital role. 
    ISEA discussed net metering earlier in more detail, and raising the net metering cap from 1-2 MW is on ISEA's 2011 policy goals.  Fortunately, HB 1913, which raises the retail net metering limit for solar and wind power from 40 kW to 2 MW AC and increases the peak limit from 1% to 5%, has passed the House Public Utilities Committee and is now in debate!  This means that Illinois is on the right track to grid parity. 
    With incentives in place and improvements in net metering, what else is needed?  Rate design.  We need a consistent, reliable rate design that will support renewable energy.  As grid parity is becoming more reachable and installation prices continue to drop, solar distribution is becoming a real option for many Americans!
    What other outreach or policy implementations do we need in order for Illinoisans to consider solar energy as a viable option?  We want to hear from you!  Join the discussion on our LinkedIn page.

  • 12 May 2011 4:27 PM | Anonymous
    How do solar panels actually function on a home?  Is it truly beneficial to invest in renewable energy for your business?  Answer these questions and more by participating in the 2011 Illinois Solar Tour on October 1st!  This event gives you the opportunity to tour innovative green homes and buildings in Illinois to see how you can use renewable energy and energy efficiency to reduce monthly utility bills and help tackle climate change.  This tour is part of the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) National Solar Tour, featuring over 5,500 buildings in 3,200 communities, making it the world’s largest grassroots solar event!
    By taking part in this annual event, you will not only view homes and businesses but speak with homeowners and business professionals who are currently utilizing renewable energy.  The annual Solar Tour is a vehicle to educate and demonstrate to the public that renewable energy works in Illinois and that many homes and businesses are taking advantage of this resource.  With ten regions in Illinois participating in this event, there is sure to be a tour near you.  Check out photos from last year’s Illinois Solar Tour here!
    Does your renewable energy business have Photovoltaic, Solar Thermal, Geothermal, or Small Wind installations it would like to display?  This is a great marketing opportunity to showcase your work!  Just submit an application with up to 5 sites your business would like to exhibit on the Tour.  In addition to individuals seeing your installations on the Tour and our website, over 40,000 people throughout Illinois will read about them in Mindful Metropolis! This year, we are partnering with Mindful Metropolis, who will include the Solar Tour Guidebook as an insert in their September, 2011 issue. This application is due by May 27th! 
    If you are a home or business owner with renewable energy installations, submit this application to be a part of the Illinois Solar Tour.  We would love to display your home or business and show that Illinois is Ready for Solar!
    With a reach of over 100,000 individuals, and print copies going to over 600 locations in-and-around Chicago, this is also a great opportunity to advertise in the Illinois Solar Tour Guidebook!  Submit an application by June 1st.
    Learn more about the 2011 Illinois Solar Tour and all of the ways you can get involved on our website.
  • 29 Apr 2011 3:25 PM | Anonymous

    Need another reason to install solar panels on your home?  Solar increases home resale value.  According to a recent study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, homes with PV systems in California have sold for a premium of approximately $3.90 to $6.40/watt.  Put into layman’s terms, this corresponds to an average home sales price premium of approximately $17,000 for a relatively new PV system. 

    The lead author of the research, Ben Hoen, describes, “These average sales price premiums appear to be comparable with the average investment that homeowners have made to install PV systems in California, and of course homeowners also benefit from energy bill savings after PV system installation and prior to home sale.”

    As you might have guessed, this is not the first time this topic has been covered.  The American Solar Energy Society points out that in 2008, Barbara Farhar had an award-winning SOLAR TODAY article about the resale value of net-zero-energy homes in Southern California, and in 1998, Andy Black of OnGrid Solar, sought to establish that a home's value increases due to energy-efficiency improvements. 

    The current Berkeley Lab study surpasses previous work in its breadth, methodical research and timeliness.  This study looks at home values after the downturn in the housing market.  Thus proving that even in current economic times, homes with solar systems have a higher value than those without.  One limitation to this study is that it only takes into account houses in California.  Conducting a similar study in a larger geographic region may reveal different trends.  Regardless, this is a positive step for solar energy and the general public!

    Read more about the study here.

    Want to learn about the value of solar homes in your region? Contact ISEA!  You can also register for one of our PV classes and decide if it is right for you. 

    Stay up-to-date on solar news; follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

  • 18 Apr 2011 11:33 AM | Michelle Hickey
    This year's summit will take place on Tuesday, May 17 at the Chicago-Kent College of Law (565 West Adams). Registration cost is $50 for staff at CGCJI and Partner organizations and $75 for all others.

    This year's summit is aimed at providing a variety of stakeholders with practical information on navigating employer recognized credentials in the labor market, regional job growth, and innovative workforce development strategies among employment training programs and educational partnerships.

    Michelle Hickey from the ISEA will be a panelist, as will John Caravette, ISEA Board Member and owner of Earth Wind and Solar Energy.

  • 15 Apr 2011 5:06 PM | Michelle Hickey
    I am happy to report that House Bill 1913, sponsored by Rep Karen May, which raises the retail net metering limit for solar and wind power from 40 kW to 2 MW AC and increases the peak limit from 1% to 5%, has passed the House Public Utilities Committee 23-0 on April 13, 2011. 

    House Bill 1943, sponsored by Rep Ann Williams, which includes up to 25 kW and 25-2000 kW carve outs in the Renewable Portfolio Standard, has passed the House Environment and Energy Committee 17-0 on April 14, 2011. 

    Both bills now go to the full Illinois House for a short debate.  You can follow the legislation at the Illinois General Assembly website and insert "HB1913" or "HB1943" in the top keyword search on the left.

  • 15 Apr 2011 5:05 PM | Michelle Hickey

    9 month, tenure track faculty position.​  Lake Land College.​  Responsible for teaching the range of courses and labs in Renewable Energy offered by the college and coordinating the Associate degree and Certificate Programs in Renewal Energy.​  Minimum of Bachelor’s degree in Engineering, Engineering Technology or related science.​  3-5 years recent experience in repair, installation and design of Energy Systems required.​  Preference will be given to candidates with teaching experience.​  
    Application deadline: 5/​2/​11.​  Start date 8/​19/​11.​

    Submit LLC application, letter of application, resume, and transcripts to:  
    Human Resources
    5001 Lake Land Blvd.​
    Mattoon, IL.​  61938
  • 15 Apr 2011 5:04 PM | Michelle Hickey
    The Village of Riverside has drafted a solar ordinance for discussion at their Tuesday, April 19th Planning Group meeting.  Please review and send any factual data to support why solar should be a permitted in Riverside by Tuesday morning. Examples include, homes with solar sell faster and have increased property value, solar is affordable and prices for photovoltaic modules are going down.  

    As always, people who wish to promote solar development are encouraged to attend to comment on the development of this ordinance.  

    Village of Riverside Planning Committee Meeting
    Tuesday, April 19, 2011
    7:30 pm
    Riverside Village Office
    27 Riverside Road
    Riverside, IL 60546

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