A new solar project will connect Illinois customers to clean energy and bill savings. The utility said its program would expand to more than 80 community solar projects by the end of the year.
Customers of the Illinois utility, ComEd, will have the opportunity to access local solar energy as the Gar Creek Community Solar Project has been launched. The project, located on two solar panels in a low-income community, will serve up to 600 customers.
ComEd said customers could save about $1,000 a year on their electric bill for signing up. Applications will be accepted for the program, called Give a radiusuntil April 15and. Gar Creek is open to any customer located in ComEd’s Northern Illinois region.
Gar Creek is a 3.5 MW community solar project. Community solar differs from utility scale in that it is characterized by smaller projects that are at the distribution level. Large-scale projects are larger, centralized power sources that require robust (and expensive) high-voltage transmission infrastructure. Community solar projects also typically involve a subscription process like Give-A-Ray, in which customers voluntarily sign up to purchase credits that represent the output from the solar installation. This project was developed by local Illinois developers Fosler Solar and Trajectory Energy.
“At ComEd, we are committed to making the clean energy transition as inclusive as possible, and the Gar Creek project will help us achieve that goal,” said Scott Vogt, vice president of energy acquisition at ComEd. . “Our partners at Fosler Solar and Trajectory Energy share our vision, and we are excited to work with them to provide qualified customers throughout our region with access to solar power, regardless of income level.”
Gar Creek’s subscription service was enabled by Illinois Solar for All, a state incentive program. Give-A-Ray is the first program of its kind in the state, launched last year in direct response to funding being made available.
ComEd said that for the third consecutive year, it received more than 10,000 requests from residential, commercial and industrial customers to interconnect distributed resources like solar to its grid.
Five million community solar cookers
The US Department of Energy (DOE) recently Setting goals to expand the benefits of community solar to five million homes by 2025. This would represent 700% growth over the next four years. The DOE is also targeting $1 billion in savings on energy bills for those five million American homes.
While the community solar industry experienced a year of record growth in 2020, to continue on this trajectory, barriers to expansion must be removed and incentives offered. At the Solar Energy Community Forum held in Boston in late February, five key points highlighted the challenges facing the industry:
- There is still work to be done to make community solar fairer
- Policy makers, utilities and regulators must set targets and incentives that lead to better interconnection outcomes
- States must adopt their own community solar bills
- Existing community solar markets need to evolve credit rate structures, streamline interconnection, and provide a long-term path for continued program capacity
- Potential new growth markets must onboard utilities and create a sense of urgency
Nearly three quarters of the US community solar power market is concentrated in four states: Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota and New York. Currently, 22 states and Washington, DC have state policies that support community solar deployment.
“Community solar power needs state-level policies to thrive,” said Wood Mackenzie analyst Rachel Goldstein. New Mexico and Delaware both passed legislation in 2021 for new or improved community solar programs. Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have all proposed bills making progress in state legislatures.
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