Illinois solar installations on the rise

August 1, 2012

By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl
President and Vice President, Illinois Renewable Energy Association

2012 is predicted to be a banner year for solar electric installations in Illinois with an estimated capacity of 30 megawatts to be added in contrast to the 18 megawatts installed last year.

July 25, the IKEA stores in Bolingbrook and Schaumburg celebrated the installation of the two largest commercial solar rooftop installations in Illinois to date. IKEA now has 25 completed solar installations.

When combined, the two installations are slightly less than 20 megawatts. The units are tied into the electric grid, but there is no indication they will produce power for the stores when grid service is disrupted.

With the frequency and intensity of storms predicted to increase, the ability to generate power when the grid goes down is of increasing importance. We have grown to accept electrical outages, and soon forget the costs of the disruptions and forget about taking actions to protect ourselves during outages.

While electricity is essential to modern life and our utilities generally provide reliable service, disruptions are inevitable. Some essential services such as those provided by hospitals have backup on-site power generation to maintain key electrical services. It seems fair to assume that large commercial operations such as IKEA have some backup on-site power generation capacity. Solar installations at those stores should produce usable power when the grid goes down.

While grid service remains essential and the grid is being expanded to accommodate energy produced from wind farms, we can increase local energy independence by installing solar systems on rooftops with the capacity to function when the grid goes down.

Friends Vic and Polly Zaderej recently installed a solar PV system with battery backup that gives them a secure source of electrical service when coupled with their wind generator and passive solar heating.

As solar installations increase and their costs continue to fall along with battery costs, the potential of increasing local and individual energy production and security becomes greater.

Once again at this year’s Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair (Aug. 11-12 at Ogle County Fairgrounds), PV system designers and installers with whom visitors can discuss their solar options will be available.

The federal tax credit of 30 percent remains in place and provides a reasonable incentive to install a system. Advanced Energy Solutions from southern Illinois will have small PV systems in addition to many other energy producing and saving devices.

G-G Solar Electric and Habi-Tek, both from the Chicago suburbs, Heavenly Winds from farther west and the Root Cellar from east Iowa will showcase their PV systems, among other products.

Solergy and Sun Air, both from north central Illinois, will discuss design and installation of systems with interested individuals.

Workshops, including solar PV system monitoring and solar for business finance planning, will provide more information and ideas. Additionally, those with an interest in how the electrical code affects solar PV will have an opportunity to participate in a two-part set of presentations/discussions. One of the concluding open discussion sessions will focus on solar.

Major sponsors of the fair are the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, The Rock River Times, Clean Line Energy Partners, the Kickapoo Nature Conservancy and Ogle County.

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are founders and officers of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA) and coordinate the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. E-mail sonia@essex1.com.

From the Aug. 1-7, 2012, issue

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