October Town Hall Meeting Minutes

Community Solar for Wilmette & Beyond

Town Hall Meeting

Oct. 29, 2019

Wilmette Public Library, 7:00-9:00pm

If you can’t put solar panels on your home, or you simply want to support 100% renewable power without any hassles, Wilmette residents are now able to join a local community solar farm.

Suburban areas are leading the solar movement in Illinois thanks to community solar. In the last 2 months, it has been announced that five Illinois coal plants will be shut down, leaving approximately15 coal plants in the state. As Illinois looks to make a shift to a greater share of renewable power generation, community solar offers a meaningful way for residents to help reduce dependence on fossil fuels. 

Introduction by Jon Carson, Trajectory Energy

The Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA), passed in 2017, has set a mandate for Illinois to meet a renewable energy goal of 25% renewable power by 2025. The Act includes the Illinois Solar for All Program which offers participation in solar projects to low income families. Making solar more accessible for residents of all economic backgrounds is among Trajectory’s mission, and the organization has worked on the Illinois Solar For All program since the Act was passed. Next summer, Trajectory will be involved in building a 2MW Community Solar project right in the heart of the most low-income ward in Rockford. The project is called “Rockford Solar” which will bring community solar benefits to the families that live in that community. The site was an open pit gravel mining operation for 80 years. For 20 years after that, it was an open pit municipal dump. Today, the site is anenvironmental justice community and now that very community will be producing clean energy for residents all over Rockford.  Trajectory works with landowners, municipalities, zoning, engineering and long-term partners who will be the owners and operators of these systems.  Due to this, Trajectory looked for a long-term partner in this project, those who will stay for 20+ years.

Most community solar projects are not part of the Illinois Solar for All project. They are part of the larger Illinois Shines program. Trajectory’s first Illinois Shines community solar project will be in Orangeville in Stevenson County. It will be built in 2020.

Trajectory has chosen to work with Clearway Energy to develop community solar projects that all ComEd customers can take advantage of. In addition to their development experience, Trajectory has recommended that the Wilmette Community Solar Project promote a Clearway community solar project because of the meaningful consumer offer: guaranteed savings with convenient and practical contract terms.   

About Clearway by Krishna Patel

Clearway’s mission is to increase renewable energy via solar and wind energy; they are one of the largest renewables companies in the nation.  They are the country’s largest community solar developer, working mostly in five states building over 300MW of capacity. They are not a Retail Energy Supplier or a utility.  Patel has worked for Clearway for 12 years and specifically with community solar for the last 4 years leading the way in the industry.

Who owns the farms? Clearway is a long-term owner and operator for every single farm they help build in Illinois. They have a vested financial interest in developing successful projects as owner, operator, and servicing your account for the term. With Clearway’s community solar farms come local jobs for the building and ongoing maintenance of every farm, year-round. For subscribers, there is not only significant environmental impact, but savings impact for customers on their default supply rate with ComEd. Clearway offers a program that gives customers an opportunity to reduce electricity costs and interact differently with their energy program – there are no gimmicks, teaser rates, or green power premiums, and this is how Clearway differs from Retail Electric Suppliers (RES).

Electricity shoppers can heck out PluginIllinois.com to compare true rates of energy with every company, including ComEd versus Retail Energy Suppliers (RES). ComEd is the cheaper option even after the RES’s initial low rates. This is because ComEd is disallowed from making a profit on the supply portion of your bill.  One of the components on your bill is a credit that fluctuates. If ComEd over-collected, they have to give that money back to you.  Most homes are going back to their default supplier – ComEd because over time it actually saves money.

Illinois has set a goal that by 2025, the state needs to get 25% of our energy from renewable resources (as described above) We have a real opportunity to be leaders in Illinois. We are the 5th largest energy consuming state and right now we get 40% for our power from fossil fuels and much of the rest from nuclear power. Currently, Illinois only gets 10% of electricity  from renewables. Community solar is going to be a huge part of the way that we get to “25% by 2025”. The solar power goes into ComEd’s utility grid and decreases the demand for coal-generated electricity.

Benefits of Community Solar

  • $0 down, no upfront costs
  • Guaranteed savings[1]

  • You don’t pay until the solar farm is placed in service and generating credits for your utility bill
  • Unlike RES’s, Clearway is giving Illinois residents a guaranteed savings for folks on the default supply (this guarantee will benefit most of ComEd’s customers)

By subscribing, you are helping put more solar- a 100% renewable power source- on the grid.  Every customer that subscribes to community solar is contributing to the increase of solar power onto the grid. As the state’s energy grid fills up with more solar, the demand for fossil fuels will decrease.

When Signing Up

Clearway uses your historical energy usage to determine the correct portion of the solar farm your home should be subscribed to in order to ensure savings – this maximizes your savings.

For the solar energy generated by your subscription, you in turn receive solar bill credits applied to your ComEd bill.  Then, you pay Clearway for those same solar bill credits. Clearway guarantees a monthly 20% discount on the cost of the solar credits that were applied to your utility bill. So, for every $1 your utility bill is reduced, you will only pay Clearway $.80.

ComEd customers on the default supply rate can use this formula to determine their savings:

In Summary:  Your savings will equal ComEd supply charge x .85 x .20 (at default rate)

For example, if you have a $100 supply charge on your ComEd bill, and your solar subscription accounts for 85% of that, then you will have an $85 credit on your ComEd bill. Clearway’s bill to you will only be 20% of that $85 credit equals a $68 bill from Clearway. (That is, your savings will be 20% of $85, or $17) You would save $17 on that month’s bill.

  • When you request an online form, a Clearway solar specialist will calculate a savings quote based on your individual utility bill. You must provide your utility bill to see your savings quote and to complete enrollment.
  • By Illinois state law, ComEd is required to give you a credit directly on your existing power bill for the amount of power generated by your portion of the community solar produced.
  • The sign-up process takes about 15-30 minutes to go over your custom presentation and quote. The contract approval process will require a soft credit check and a contract that is signed electronically.

When signing up, please be sure to mention (or use promo code) WILMETTE, even if you do not live in Wilmette. That will help us track our reach.

SIGN UP LINK: www.clearwaycommunitysolar.com/wilmette

WHAT TO EXPECT on your bill:

You will receive two bills – one from Clearway and one from ComEd.

  • ComEd‘s bill will show the usual delivery charges and service charges on your bill. It will also include the monthly solar bill credits that the community solar system produced for your portion that month, deducted from your ComEd supply charge.
  • Clearway bill will have NO service or delivery charges, no extra charges or taxes.
  • If you have community solar, ComEd cannot legally increase your taxes or other charges.
  • A separate bill from Clearway will charge you the 80% of the value of your credits for that month. You keep the 20% as your energy savings.

The amount of savings will fluctuate depending on how much energy the community solar system produces. On a winter overcast day with less hours of sunlight, the system will produce less. You will generally have fewer credits in the winter. The credits you receive in higher production months rollover to help with lower-producing winter months.

If the ComEd service rate goes up, the value of your community solar credit will go up.  If the ComEd service rate goes down, yours will go down.

Clearway will size and resize your portion of community solar based on your changing energy usage. For instance, if you buy an electric car and your energy usage goes up, you can call Clearway to re-size your solar subscription.  

Your Contract Details – Term, Cancellation, & Moving

The contract term is 20 years and helps ensure long-term savings benefits. What is locked in for 20 years is an energy savings guarantee. Clearway has built customer conveniences into their contract in the event a customer needs to leave the program.

In the event of a customer’s passing or move into a retirement home, the customer will be released from their contract without any penalty or fees.

More Questions Answered

  1. Is there anything comparable for businesses or small businesses and municipalities?
  • Yes, Clearway can work with you and Go Green Wilmette will be promoting this as well.
  • Where will the project be?
  • Trajectory’s first community solar project will be in Orangeville in Stevenson County.
  • When will the project go on-line?
  • It will be completed late next year.
  • Will we actually get solar power from the project at our homes?  
  • You will not actually receive solar power from this project at your home, but you will help add solar energy to Illinois power supply. The electrons from the solar panels in Orangeville will flow onto the local electric grid lines first, meaning the local community will draw less energy from the high voltage lines that distribute mostly coal and nuclear-produced electricity.
  • What is the bottom line about State Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs)? 
  • SRECs are a way to help finance solar.  Subscribers to community solar projects are also a necessary component to financing the solar project.  The purchasers of the SRECs and the community solar subscribers, together, lead to additional solar generating capacity.  Thus, subscribers to community solar projects are definitely helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions because their participation in a community solar project is generating more demand for solar which in turn leads to more solar panels being installed which leads to less C02 emissions. 
  • Can I put solar on my roof if I am part of a Homeowner’s Association (HOA)?
  • By law, HOA’s have to allow solar, however they might have restrictions, like no electrical conduit can be visible, or no street-facing arrays. Inquire directly with your HOA for these requirements/amendments.
  • Can I subscribe to community solar if I am part of a Condo Association?
  • If you have an electric bill, then you can apply for community solar.
  • If I have solar panels on my roof, can I subscribe to community solar? 
  • Yes, if you do not already produce all of your energy needs. 

Other Notes:

  • When ComEd requests an increase in the delivery (infrastructure) charges, the request must undergo a “rate case” review to prove why ComEd needs to increase the cos.  On average, the charges increase 2-3% annually. If any company tells you these rates are higher, that is not accurate. Historically, ComEd’s increases do not exceed 2-3% per year.
  • For all the community solar projects that will be built in IL in 2020, there’s only room for about 50,000 residential customers in the state.
  • Many subscribers will reside in the community where the solar is installed, but Jon Carson sees the Northshore as being the leader on this movement, driving demand by using up many of the solar subscriptions, and continuing action in Springfield to get more of this done.

Why not subscribe NOW? Lock in your subscription to secure your space. Clearway will be in touch with regular email updates as to the solar farm’s construction and the start of billing.

[1] Subject to credit approval. Subscription term is 20-years. Savings calculated as 20% on the value of the net metering credits generated by the residential solar subscription on the default supply service rate with the utility (ComEd). Customers not on their utility default supply rate may not receive the same savings or any savings. Clearway is not responsible for utility delays in applying net metering credits.