(Chicago, IL) — August 17, 2010. Governor Pat Quinn yesterday signed bills at the University of Illinois-Chicago engineering school to accelerate solar energy purchases by utilities and to help homeowners to increase their solar energy usage.
“Solar energy is the wave of the future, and it is important that our public utilities and homeowners are able to more easily increase their use of solar energy,” said Quinn.
The legislation, House Bill 6202, sponsored by State Rep. William Burns (D-Chicago) and State Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), advances the date by which Commonwealth Edison and Ameren must begin purchasing solar energy as part of the renewable energy portfolio requirement. They must begin purchases in 2012 rather than the previous 2015 deadline.
Specifically, the power industry will now be required to purchase .5 percent of its power from solar sources by June 1, 2012; 1.5 percent by June 1, 2013; 3 percent by June 1, 2014; and 6 percent by June 1, 2015, and each year thereafter.
According to the U.S. Energy Administration’s latest data, Illinois’ electricity net generation totaled 199,475 megawatthours in 2008 while renewable net generation comprised only 3,174 megawatthours or 1.6% of the total. Of that amount, wind made up 2,337 hours or 1.2%. Less than 6 kilowatts of solar energy is currently produced in Illinois.
“This puts Illinois in a strong position to attract good, clean energy jobs in the growing solar energy industry,” said Burns.
“Soon some of the electricity powering our homes will be coming from solar energy, in addition to the wind power we have started using in recent years,” said Jack Darin, Director of the Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter. “We have created thousands of new wind power jobs with those purchases, and now stand to gain up to 5,000 new jobs by growing the solar industry – all while making deep cuts in air pollution.”
Chicago Opens Nation’s Largest Urban Solar Energy Plant
On July 21, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and Exelon Chairman and CEO John Rowe on Chicago’s South Side dedicated Exelon City Solar, the nation’s largest urban solar power plant.
Exelon transformed a 41-acre site in the West Pullman neighborhood from a former industrial brownfield property that had been vacant for more than 30 years into a solar energy source.
The $60 million project’s 32,292 solar photovoltaic panels convert the sun’s rays into more than 14,000 megawatt-hours of electricity per year – enough to meet the annual energy requirements of up to 1,500 average homes while generating zero carbon emissions.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s system for calculating emission savings, Exelon City Solar will displace approximately 31.2 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions annually, equivalent to taking more than 2,500 cars off the road.
Each Illinois resident, per population average, produces approximately 19 Tons of Carbon Dioxide each year. Illinois is the #7th highest carbon dioxide polluting state in the United States.
“This project is a great example of the good things that happen when government and the private sector work together,” Daley said.
Homeowner Associations Must Allow Solar Panel Installation
In addition, Quinn signed legislation, House Bill 5429, sponsored by State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) and State Senator Michael Noland (D-Elgin), to allow individual homeowners to construct solar energy panels on their homes. Under the new law, homeowner’s associations cannot prohibit homeowners from installing solar panels on their property.
“This legislation removes barriers for many homeowners who want to put solar panels on their roofs, but have been prevented from doing so by outdated restrictions,” said Feigenholtz. “Now Illinois homeowners who want to cut pollution and their utility bills by installing solar panels will be free to do so.”
Attending the press conference with Quinn were: Peter Nelson, Dean, University of Illinois at Chicago College of Engineering; Pete Kadens, Chief Executive Officer, SoCore Energy; Al Grosboll, Senior Policy Advocate, Environmental Law and Policy Center; Kevin Lynch, Electrical Program Coordinator, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 134.
House Bill 6202 takes effect immediately and House Bill 5429 will take effect Jan. 1, 2011.