By Nicola Brown, Program Associate at the Illinois Solar Energy Association*
Right now, the state of Illinois is ranked 34th in the nation in terms of clean energy production, according to Energy.gov. However, all of that is about to change: the Illinois state legislature recently enacted the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA).
This policy updates the Illinois Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which requires increased energy production from renewable sources. Currently, Illinois has about 80 MW of solar installed throughout the state, but this new RPS means that solar installations will increase to 2,700 MW by 2030. These new solar projects will include traditional residential and commercial rooftop solar, but it will also introduce more community solar projects — 400 MW worth.
Community solar is an arrangement in which residents and businesses may own or lease panels collectively, which means that people who would otherwise not have the financial means or space requirements for their own onsite arrays can still use and benefit from producing clean energy. There are many different ways a community solar agreement can be structured, but some of the major upsides are that, “the production of community solar is projected to produce over 10,000 construction period jobs, generate $1.39 billion in construction benefit money, and offset the equivalent greenhouse gas emissions of about 350,000 homes per year.”
This push for expanded community solar includes specific provisions for low-income solar in the Solar for All program. The energy burden is greatest for those in low income brackets — a greater percentage of their monthly paycheck goes towards utilities than those of higher income brackets. Solar for All will locate community solar in low-income areas to reduce that burden. Additionally, the program requires that developers hire people from these areas to work on the construction and installation of the arrays. The hiring pool must also include formerly incarcerated people and alumni of the foster care system.
With all these new jobs in solar energy, FEJA has also identified a need for job training programs. The act allocates $10 million for solar training programs, apprenticeships, and multicultural training. Local nonprofits and training facilities are partnering in order to best facilitate what promises to be a huge growth spurt in the industry. ISEA, in addition to its work educating the public and the industry on solar energy policy, is also hard at work coordinating these efforts. Lesley McCain, ISEA’s Executive Director, said, “This new legislation will bring both environmental and economic benefits to the state. We are excited for Illinois to become a clean energy leader!”
Though FEJA began the implementation process on June 1st, 2017, the associated programs are expected to roll out sometime in 2018. Illinois is well on its way to becoming one of the top states in renewable energy production.
To help ensure ISEA is able to continue its work advocating for inclusive and fair solar policy, it is raffling off a 2017 Model X! Only 2,500 tickets will be sold. (Editor’s note: It’s no guarantee for you, but a CleanTechnica reader won a Model S in ISEA’s first Tesla raffle after hearing about it here. Also, before you ask, sorry, but the raffle is only open to residents of the 48 contiguous US states.)
More about ISEA: The ISEA is the Illinois chapter of the American Solar Energy Society (ASES). It represents the interests of more than 400 members and over 100 businesses in the state. The nonprofit’s stated mission is to educate the public and advocate for the adoption of renewable energy technologies, in particular solar energy. In other words, it sounds like a great cause to support, whether you win the raffle or not.
About the Author: Nicola Brown is the Program Associate at the Illinois Solar Energy Association. She loves being able to apply her English Major brain towards promoting renewable energy and making the world a greener place by writing about solar news in Illinois. Catch her newsletters by signing up at www.illinoissolar.org!
*This post was sponsored by ISEA; image from Energy.gov
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