The state of the “Windy City” has an abundance of natural, renewable energy resources at its disposal. Chicago’s strong gales might have given the city its famous nickname, but the infrastructure for wind energy can be difficult to integrate in developed areas. However, Illinois has no shortage of sunshine, and solar systems can be more easily incorporated into existing structures: rooftop solar, carport solar and ground-mount solar. Now, more than ever, Illinois is embracing solar power and developing incentives to support the transition to renewable energy in the state.
The Illinois General Assembly passed FEJA, a significant energy legislation that will help pivot the state to a new clean energy economy. The act mandates that at least 3 gigawatts of new solar power be built in the state by 2030 and will drive new commercial and industrial (C&I) solar projects in the Prairie State for years to come.
Additionally, the act increases the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which requires the utilities (Commonwealth Edison Company, Ameren Illinois and MidAmerican Energy Company) to source a certain percentage of electricity from renewable energy resources. FEJA establishes that by the year 2025, 25% of the total electrical generation must come from renewable energy.
The utilities can meet annual RPS targets by purchasing Renewable Energy Credits. Commonly referred to as a “RECs,” they are a certificate or green tag certifying that one megawatt-hour of electricity was generated from a renewable resource, such as C&I roof-top solar energy systems producing power from the sun. The REC program assigns the ownership and use of renewable energy to the source of generation to satisfy the state’s RPS mandate.
Solar energy systems in Illinois generate two commodities: electricity and the associated RECs. A REC can be sold in the marketplace or directly from the generator to the utility, creating additional revenue on top of the savings from a reduced electricity bill.
A C&I company desiring to lower its facility’s electricity expenses can install a solar system and sell the RECs that the system generates for a guaranteed fixed-price over a 15-year period. The income generated from the RECs drives down the overall cost of going solar, making the system more affordable and competitive with traditional energy sources.
For utility procurement of RECs, the Illinois Power Authority (IPA) has created the Adjustable Block Program. The program establishes blocks or quantities of set REC prices based on the type and size of the solar energy system and the utility service territory of the project’s location. Each volumetric block has a set amount of availability, whereby projects are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. When a block is filled, the next block will open at a new REC price.
The Illinois Power Agency (IPA) is still in the midst of finalizing the rollout of the program and the earliest opening is expected to be Q4 of 2018. If your company would like to be able to capitalize on receiving the maximum REC price for a solar project, time is of the essence. In order for a project to be eligible, there are several key steps that must be completed: the engineering system design and electrical layout, a completed interconnection agreement and evidence of having obtained all applicable non-ministerial permits. It is prudent to give enough time to prepare these materials for a timely submission in order to reserve the highest REC price for your company’s solar energy project.
In addition to the electricity savings and REC income that an on-site commercial solar energy system can generate, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) has established a Smart Inverter Rebate program. For projects that are located within the Commonwealth Edison Company, Ameren Illinois and MidAmerican Energy Company territories, the amount of the rebate is $250 per kilowatt of installed solar capacity, up to a maximum of 2,000 kilowatts AC per customer account.
Financial incentives in the C&I solar marketplace, as with many other industries, are limited in nature and capacity is quickly reserved by companies who recognize and capitalize on the opportunity. The Adjustable Block Program is no exception, and time is of the essence to reserve the highest REC price for your company’s solar energy project.
PowerFlex has been providing customized solar solutions to corporate clients for over a decade, and we have extensive experience working with a wide variety of companies, from smaller family-owned businesses to larger global corporations. We welcome the opportunity to provide additional insight and a complimentary solar project economic study for your company’s facility if you are interested in taking a look at the numbers and what solar, and PowerFlex, can do for your company’s bottom line.
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