New solar program lets renters buy in
NORMAL — A recent state law is letting the sunshine in for residents previously shut out of solar power, and a local program hopes to help McLean County customers get on board.
Renters and those whose properties aren't a good fit for solar panels can now invest in panels at other homes and businesses through "community solar," including through Solar Bloomington-Normal 2.0, a second round of the 2016 group-buy that brought about 430 kilowatts of solar capacity to 30 local homes and businesses.
"We're really excited that's available now because it really expands the eligibility for folks to participate in the program," said Peter Murphy, market development coordinator for the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, a partner in Solar Bloomington-Normal.
Community solar is now possible in Illinois as part of the Future Energy Jobs Act, the 2016 law that also saved the Exelon nuclear plant in Clinton. But the state is also serving as a roadblock on community solar through regulations, meaning exact details on how and when it will be implemented remain unclear.
"Solar installers and developers are putting together their plans and their subscriptions for community solar, but they're still awaiting some policy outcomes and process outcomes before it's available," said Murphy. "Details about those opportunities will become more clear as the program progresses."
Cypress Creek Renewables, which is developing four local solar farms that received McLean County approval this spring, plans to offer community solar at all four, Senior Developer Scott Novack told The Pantagraph.
Murphy said Solar Bloomington-Normal 2.0 will also, for the first time, offer lease options that let residents, businesses and nonprofits "put solar on your roof without purchasing it outright." The systems will instead be owned by StraightUp Solar, the St. Louis-based installer partnering on the program.
Those interested in participating in Solar Bloomington-Normal 2.0 can attend free public "solar power hour" sessions starting Saturday and running through Sept. 13. The first four are:
• 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, 6880 N. 2075E Road, Downs; no presentation will be given;
• 6 p.m. Thursday, West Bloomington Revitalization Project, 724 W. Washington St., Bloomington;
• 3 p.m. May 30, University of Illinois Extension Office, 1615 Commerce Parkway, Bloomington; and
• 6:30 p.m. May 31, Normal Public Library, 206 W. College Ave., Normal.
"The price points are going to be different for each customer based on their unique wants and needs," said Larissa Armstrong, assistant director of the Ecology Action Center, another partner in the program. "Folks should come learn about pricing and the range of options at a solar power hour, because while the initial pricing structure is designed to be lower, the real bargain of participating in the group purchasing program is the ease of access."
Contact Derek Beigh at (309) 820-3234. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_beigh