Proponents of sustainable energy have long praised solar energy as a cheap, efficient alternative to petroleum-based fuels, but the adoption of solar technologies has been relatively slow and large-scale implementation of solar energy has been almost non-existent. For Illinois residents, that is about to change.
A new law (HB 6202) requires that a percentage of the electricity supplied to Illinois residents by utility companies must come from solar sources. This mandatory quota of solar energy will increase from 0.5 percent of the utilities' total supply in June 2012, to six percent in June 2015, fulfilling a key part of the state's Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). The RPS is a plan which ensures that 25 percent of Illinois' energy will come from renewable resources by 2025.
In addition to the utilities law, Governor Quinn also recently signed the Homeowners Solar Energy Act (HB 5429), which helps to prevent homeowners' associations from blocking the installation of solar panels on private homes.
"Solar energy is the wave of the future, and it is important that our public utilities and homeowners are able to more easily increase their use of solar energy," said Governor Quinn, according to a recent press release. "We must do everything we can to increase our use of solar energy, which will help us protect natural resources and reduce our reliance on traditional energy sources, such as foreign oil."
This new legislation joins an already extensive list of solar energy efforts in Illinois, including a number of rebates, incentives and grants. Homeowners who install solar panels, for example, may be entitled to certain property tax exemptions. And, while the cost of installing a new solar system may seem daunting, the Solar Energy Rebate Program
can help. This program, aimed at private homeowners, covers up to 30 percent of the cost of installing a new photovoltaic or solar thermal system. For schools, businesses and other organizations, the Renewable Energy Resources Solar Thermal Energy Grant Program
, offers similar funding, providing up to $400,000.
Looks like the future's bright for solar energy in Illinois.