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Solar power and solar energy have grown in popularity across the United States. Despite this, both still have multiple obstacles preventing more people from going solar.
Christina Uzzo, the Environmental Outreach Coordinator of the Citizens Utility Board (CUB), told the RoundTable that lack of awareness about the changing solar industry is a main preventer. People do not know that industry-wide the cost is coming down and a new Illinois solar initiative brings the price of solar panels down 30 to 35%.
The CUB and the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA), which powers Grow Solar, have partnered to create Solarize Chicagoland. This program is looking to help further reduce costs of residential solar, while also educating residents, through a group solar buy.
A group solar buy, which would involve Cook, DuPage, Kane and Will County, can help lower costs of installing solar energy on homes. This is done through the power of volume purchasing.
According to Ms. Uzzo, who is also managing the Solarize Chicagoland project, the idea is to get many people to decide to go solar. By doing this, as well as through benchmarks for the amount of solar energy purchased, the price is brought down.
These savings will provide much help to people who want to buy solar panels for their house. Savings could end up cutting thousands of dollars off the price of solar panels, and Ms. Uzzo said estimated savings are between 10 and 15%. She also said that this number could get higher, and that will depend on how many people are signed up by the deadline.
The idea of a group solar buy is not new. This solar buy is part of solar plan made by the US Department of Energy. The MREA has already done many group buys throughout the Midwest. That being said, Ms. Uzzo believes this is the first one being done for the Chicago suburbs.
Solarize Chicagoland has been giving “Solar Power Hours” throughout the Chicagoland area since April. The Solarize Chicagoland website states these presentations teach “the basics of solar, its financial implications for your property, and how the Solarize Chicagoland program works.”
According to Ms. Uzzo, the Chicagoland area is ideal for a group solar buy because the big Illinois solar initiative brought in more solar energy companies and expanded the industry.
Evanston will be hosting a “Solar Power Hour” on August 22. This is Evanston’s second time hosting a Solar Power Hour, first hosting one in May. This will be a chance for Evanston residents to get more information regarding the group solar buy.
Ms. Uzzo said Evanston is having two presentations since the City is so interested in sustainability.
A maximum of 150 people are allowed to participate in the group solar buy, and Ms. Uzzo states Solarize Chicagoland is hoping to get around that number. They are expecting at least 100 participants. She said lots of interest has been generated by Evanston residents.
The next step for those who are interested is to apply for a quote from Global Renewable Natural Energy (GRNE) Solar. GRNE, based in Palatine, Illinois, was selected to be the solar installer for this project. The company has been in operation since 2012, and they install the solar panels with no outside help.
Ms. Uzzo said they were picked after submitting an impressive proposal. GRNE will provide a free quote to help residents make the decision whether to go solar or not.
All potential buyers have until Sept. 30, to decide whether or not they are going to participate in the group solar buy and purchase solar panels. Ms. Uzzo noted that if the permit process goes quickly and if the homeowner is motivated to get the solar panels, construction on the house could start only 6-10 weeks after the contract is signed.
Once construction starts, Ms. Uzzo said it will take one or two days. Most projects take only one day. Racking and support for the racking is added onto the roof, but other than that, no changes are made to the houses.
The Evanston “Solar Power Hour” will take place Aug. 22., from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Morton Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Ave., on the fourth floor.