State incentive programs have been driving solar installation across the country as part of a mission to expand renewable-energy use across facilities including city, county and school district sites. Photovoltaic systems installed in these locations often provide the majority of energy needed to power the hosting building, while facility owners pay no cost for the installation.
This year, much of this technology installation is being provided by the Clean Energy Design Group (CEDG) in Springfield, Ill. Pyramid Electrical Contractors Inc., Fairview Heights, Ill., has helped by connecting networks such as a three-school system in the Jersey Community Unit School District No. 100 (CUSD 100). Since early this year, three CUSD 100 schools—an elementary, middle and high school in Jerseyville, Ill.—are powered by the sun. With a total of 5,500 PV panels, the schools are capturing enough energy to power between 40%–85% of their needs, which means a significant reduction in the schools’ electricity bills, said Alan Churchman, director of transportation and facilities for the school district.
Much of Illinois’ solar growth comes as a result of a renewable-energy standard that requires the state’s businesses and public sites to generate at least 25% of their energy from renewable sources by 2025. The Jersey CUSD 100 schools, and other projects CEDG has won in the past year, were incentivized through the Illinois Power Agency (IPA,) a nonprofit, regulation industry for energy use said James Holtzman, a managing partner with CEDG.
The IPA provides renewable energy credits on a first-come, first-served basis, and negotiation over the latest set of contracts was completed at the end of 2020. The power purchase agreement arrangement makes the end-user the host of the installation, with the immediate gain once the system is commissioned with a portion of the energy savings. CEDG receives the incentives and operates and maintains the systems for 20 years, with potential for five-year extensions.
Along with the Jersey CUSD 100 schools, CEDG secured 35 different sites as part of the state’s recent contract, and most of those sites are schools. However, there are also municipalities building solar-power units to generate more power for city buildings.