Wilmette Community Solar Project

Wilmette Community Solar is a group of residents from Wilmette and surrounding communities organizing a solar energy project. Under Illinois’s new Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA), any community group can come together to create a shared solar panel installation. Individual subscribers then receive credit on their electric bills for their share of the group project.  There are several benefits for subscribers:

No roof space required. The panels will be located on 10 – 15 acres of land in the ComEd service area.
No up-front investment required. Subscribers pay a monthly subscription fee to the Community project for the power generated by one or more solar panels. The energy from those panels is credited to their monthly ComEd bills.
Lower cost. The cost of electricity from the solar project will be slightly lower than current Comed rates.
Subscription rates will be locked in for an extended period (up to 15 years). During that period, ComEd rates are projected to continue rising.

Additional Benefits.

Lower your carbon footprint. The more solar panels you subscribe to, the less electricity you will be drawing from coal-, gas-, and oil-fired facilities.
Reduce transmission losses. When power is sent a long distance from a power plant to the consumer, a significant fraction of the energy is lost to heat. By putting production where the power is consumed, there is much less transmission loss.
Reduce infrastructure costs. Local power generation reduces the need for building and maintaining the high-tension power lines and substations that carry power from distant nuclear and coal-fired plants.
Reduce peak demand. Solar installations generate power during the periods of highest demand (hot summer afternoons). With more solar panels, fewer gas-fired “peaker” plants need to be built to handle short-term demands.

Why now? Until now, community solar projects have run into many roadblocks. But Illinois’ new Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) calls for and supportes the creation of 400 megawatts of community solar projects by 2030, enough to power 100,000 homes.

Why here? Because of all our beautiful trees, few Wilmette residents have enough unobstructed roof space for solar panels. And installing solar panels requires a substantial investment on the part of the homeowner that takes several years to make good on. Community solar projects allow interested customers, to “subscribe” to the project with no initial investment, and still obtain many of the benefits of solar energy. By committing to purchase power from the project for a number of years, they help the project obtain funding for the installation.

Where will the panels be located? Finding appropriate space is one of the main tasks for the project to accomplish. Open land in Wilmette – and in Cook County – is hard to come by. We will be working with interested community and business leaders to identify available space. The panels don’t have to be located in Wilmette. The project can draw from panels located elsewhere in Illinois. If you know of suitable space (10 15 acres) in the ComEd service area,  please let us know.

How does community solar work? Under Illinois’s community solar program, “subscribers” can enter into an agreement to help fund a solar energy installation in their community—on the rooftop of a local school or community center, for example. Any entity could organize a community solar project, including individuals, community groups, businesses, even utilities or alternative suppliers. Each subscriber then receives a credit on the supply section of his or her monthly electric bill for the electricity that was generated by the installation, in proportion to the size of the subscription they purchased.

For example, say you used 1,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity in a month, and your share of the community solar project produced 200 kWh of electricity. That means you would receive a credit on your bill amounting to your supply rate multiplied by 200 kWh of electricity. Ultimately, you would only be responsible for paying the per-kWh electricity rate for the other 800 kWh.

Additional resources:

Citizen’s Utility Board fact sheet on Community Solar

Cook County Community Solar Case Study Sites

Illinois Solar Energy Association

Future Energy Jobs Act Full Text

ComEd-sponsored site regarding FEJA

Go Green Wilmette