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Solar Energy Brightens in Illinois

June 14, 2010

NAPERVILLE, Ill. - The future of solar energy for Illinois is getting brighter. That's because a glut of solar supplies on the market is reducing prices, and state lawmakers have passed new legislation aimed at promoting solar energy. One of the new laws waiting for the Governor's signature requires utility companies to purchase some solar energy to replace the use of coal.

Jack Darin, president of the Illinois Sierra Club says that's great news for everyone in Illinois.

"It's going to mean cleaner air and it's going to mean between 4,000 and 8,000 new jobs between now and 2015."

That also means that homeowners who install solar panels will be able to send excess solar electricity back to the grid and be compensated with renewable energy certificates (RECs), which can be sold for cash.

Naperville homeowner Jim Comasto gets most of his electricity, his hot water, and a good portion of his heat through solar energy. He already sells excess electricity back to the grid for his neighbors to use.

"My utility electric bill is on the average of a couple of hundred dollars a year and I'm able to also sell the renewable energy certificates for about 200, 250 dollars. So essentially that zeroes out my electric bill."

A painter by trade, Comasto was able to offset the cost of his solar panels by installing them himself. He says the cost of the solar retrofit of his home was about the same as a new car, but he feels a lot better about this purchase, because it doesn't pollute and also because this investment doesn't depreciate.

"It's a nice safe sound dependable three to four percent return on my investment and that appears to get better as energy costs go up."

Comasto's electric power provider is planning to start using time of day billing, meaning that during peak usage hours such as mid-afternoon on a hot sunny day, electricity will cost more for just about everybody but Comasto.

"That's when PV (photovoltaic) or solar energy makes most of its energy so I'll be able to essentially offset higher-cost energy or even back-feed into the grid and sell that energy at a higher price."

Another new piece of state legislation requires homeowner associations to allow anyone to place solar panels on roofs. There are also state and federal tax incentives to help pay for new solar systems.

More information is at illinoissolar.org

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - IL