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. 

  • 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
  • 15 Apr 2011 5:03 PM | Michelle Hickey
    The Village of Oak Park is proposing to install a 95KW photovoltaic system on the top level of its "Avenue" parking structure located at 710 North Blvd (approx. 1/2 block east of Oak Park Ave. on North Blvd).
    A pre-proposal meeting will be held on Tuesday, April 26, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. at the Oak Park Public Works Center, 201 South Blvd, Oak Park.
    Proposals are due on or before Tuesday, May 10, 2011, 11:00 a.m. at the Public Works Center.

    Download RFP
  • 08 Apr 2011 2:53 PM | Michelle Hickey
    Invenergy, a Chicago wind and solar power company, plans to build a solar farm in Illinois utilizing new thin-film solar panels and inverters developed by GE. 

    The location of the solar farm is still undetermined, but the expected output is 20 MWh.

    adapted from Chicago Sun Times article
  • 06 Apr 2011 9:28 AM | Anonymous

    Japan is still feeling the devastating effects of the March 11th earthquake.  As some nuclear plants shut down and engineers try to stabilize others, the radiation is having a detrimental effect on natural resources.  Tokyo's 13 million residents were told not to give tap water to babies under 1 year old after contamination hit twice the safety level last week (learn more).  Radiation above safety levels has also been found in milk and vegetables from Fukushima and radioactive cesium 1.8 times higher than the standard level was found in a vegetable grown in a Tokyo research facility.  Australia and the United States are just a few countries restricting imports from the affected region. This nuclear crisis not only affects the country domestically but internationally as well.  What effect will this have on renewable energy development and policy? Will this deter other countries from nuclear power?
    The answers to these questions are unclear.  Since the quake, Japan has required a large supply of natural gas in order to fill the energy gap that nuclear power used to fill.  In rebuilding infrastructure, though, Japan may have a strong demand for all forms of distributed power, from mobile generators to PV arrays.  Some believe that distributed PV is the best low-cost alternative to imported natural gas, and therefore, modules created domestically and abroad will be in high demand by the Japanese.  Other experts, such as Piper Jaffray’s Ahmar Zaman, believe that "Demand for solar energy in Japan, among the top 5 markets in the world, will fall this year as the country focuses its resources on reconstruction and other recovery measures."  The role that solar power will play in Japan's energy market is still unclear.  As well, Japan's on-shore wind resource withstood the earthquake, and it is possible that the need for power may accelerate the development of wind energy.  Read more about Japan's future energy market here.
    The impact of Japan's quake and nuclear crisis has been seen around the globe.  Not surprisingly, the shares of U.S. and Chinese solar companies, such as First Solar, SunPower, Suntech Power and JA Solar, spiked after the earthquake, while many other stocks fell due to fear that there may be a nuclear meltdown (Read more).  Other countries are taking more extreme measures; Germany wants to abandon nuclear power.  Germany's transition was supposed to take 25 years, but they want to speed it up after Chancellor Angela Merkel called Japan's nuclear crisis a "catastrophe of apocalyptic dimensions".  Germany has 85-percent public opposition to nuclear power. 

    How will this affect U.S. policy?  In President Obama's State of the Union address in January this year, he endorsed nuclear power. Roberta Gamble, director for energy markets at the research firm Frost & Sullivan, notes that countries worldwide, "Are likely to back away from the 'all-eggs-in-one-basket central power station' model"; meaning that the time of focusing all efforts on nuclear power are gone.  This also means that although solar stock prices rose, this will not become the only energy source.  Mixing numerous forms of renewable energy is the future.  We believe this is a prime opportunity to show off the benefits of renewable energy. 
    How can we do this?  By proving that Illinois is Ready for Solar!  Through education programs and advocacy campaigns, we can show others the benefits of solar power.  We have the ability implement new policies to prevent future disasters. 

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