Largest solar grid in Illinois installed

President/vice-president Illinois Renewable Energy

The largest residential grid connected solar photovoltaic installation in Illinois was commissioned Friday, Dec. 20. The 50-kilowatt system, partially funded by a renewable energy grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs (DCCA), is owned by Bruce and Joyce Papiech of Forever Power and Construction (FPC) in rural Sublette. The system will produce nearly 70,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually, which is enough to power 10 average homes. This is clean power, with no CO2, SO2, or NOx being released.

The Papeichs’ system is the first of five to be installed in Lee County in north central Illinois by FPC. When completed, the combined output of the systems will be 250 kilowatts of electricity. Excess electricity will be sold to ComEd for distribution to other customers.

The pv system consists of solar panels that collect the sun’s energy and convert it to electricity without pollution or noise, and inverters that convert the electricity to a form usable by typical utility customers. The 336 panels in the array consist of single crystal silicon cells that are 16 percent efficient in converting sunlight to electricity.

Each panel produces 150 watts. They sit atop 42 trackers, which move the panels to follow the sun for maximum electrical output. The solar panels used for this project were manufactured by BP Solar, the world’s largest producer of photovoltaics. The 17 inverters are 93 percent efficient in converting direct current electricity produced by the solar panels to alternating current for utility customers. They were manufactured by SMA-America, the largest supplier of grid-tied inverters in Europe and a frontrunner in the U.S. market.

This system represents a major step on the path to a clean, reliable, safe energy future. One visitor, obviously excited by the size of the installation, remarked that she never envisioned something like this happening in Illinois. Another commented that it’s about time we moved from talking about renewable energy to actually installing it.

The installation can be seen on the south side of Sublette Road between Sublette and Dry Gulch Road (south of Amboy), about 50 miles southwest of Rockford. It is on private property.

Editor’s note to the Rockford Public Schools: Twenty schools have been selected outside the city of Chicago for two kilowatt solar photovoltaic installations. The program is being coordinated by the Foundation for Environmental Education. More may follow. If you would like to be considered, contact Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl, Illinois Renewable Energy Association, at 815-732-7332 or, and they will relay your interest to the Foundation.

Editor’s note to the Rockford Park District, the Riverfront Museum project, Rock Valley College, and the Winnebago County Jail Commission: Chicago is boldly moving forward with solar photovoltaic installations on public buildings; small towns are receiving grants for solar installations on their schools and public buildings. If Rockford doesn’t move forward, we’ll be left behind. And we don’t have to be! We’re here to help you keep up with the future.

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