Thanks to the recent passage of the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA), Illinois has further unlocked the potential of community solar for residents of the state. As more community solar projects are developed across IL, a wider range of energy consumers will be able to access the benefits of solar energy and save on their utility bills. Below are the answers to some common questions about Illinois community solar in 2022. Information is courtesy of the Illinois Citizens Utility Board, and you can download a full, in-depth FAQ at this link.
What is Illinois Community Solar?
The term community solar refers to a shared solar PV installation that is open to multiple subscribers. If you are interested in solar energy, but can’t afford to install panels at your home due to cost, shading, or space issues, then the community solar model offers an alternative route to the benefits of going solar. Under the Illinois community solar program, you subscribe to a portion of a community solar garden and, in return, receive credits on your utility bills.
How Does Community Solar Work in Illinois?
Illinois residents can subscribe to a community solar project and receive credits on their energy bills. Subscribers enter into an agreement wherein their payments help to fund a solar installation in their utility’s service territory and, in return, they receive a credit on their electricity bill. The owner of the community solar garden—not the subscribers—is responsible for paying the upfront costs to build, maintain, and operate the community solar garden. The subscriber is responsible for paying the owner for their portion of the electricity generated by the project. The owner reports the output of each subscribed portion to the utility company, and the utility then adds credits to the subscriber’s electric bill, reflecting the amount of energy generated by their subscribed portion of the community solar garden. The following image, courtesy of the Illinois Citizens Utility Board, illustrates how the community solar model works for consumers.
How Do You Get a Good Deal on Community Solar in Illinois?
There are certain consumer protections in place when it comes to Illinois community solar. The Illinois Commerce Commission and the Illinois Power Agency must sign off on all community solar contracts, giving prospective subscribers a certain level of reassurance. However, some offers may be better than others so it’s important to ask the right questions when researching a potential community solar subscription. Key questions to ask include:
What is the length of the contract with the community solar provider?
Will the provider charge a fee if you exit the contract early?
What is the payment method for your community solar subscription?
If payment is on a kilowatt per hour basis, what is the rate?
Is it possible that this rate will increase over the contract period?
What will I save with a community solar subscription?
Keep in mind that subscribers are currently expected to save between 10 and 20 percent on electricity produced via their community solar subscription.
Does the community solar provider require a credit check?
What is the company’s billing method?
How are payments accepted?
Can the subscriber decide on the payment method?
Does the company require automatic payments?
What are the Benefits of Community Solar?
Community solar offers many of the same benefits as a solar PV installation, with some additional benefits that are unique to the community solar model. With a community solar subscription, you can save on your utility bills while also supporting the development of renewable energy projects in Illinois. Furthermore, the development of community solar in the state can improve the reliability of the power grid, as the addition of solar energy projects lessens the need for expensive power plants, leading to reduced market prices for all residents.
Who is Eligible for Illinois Community Solar?
Any residential or business customer can subscribe to a community solar garden as long as it is located in their electric utility’s service territory. The minimum subscription per customer is 200 watts—the equivalent of roughly one solar panel.
Do Subscribers Get Their Power Directly From the Community Solar Project?
No, the power generated by the community solar garden is not sent directly to the subscriber’s home. Like all electricity sources, the power produced by the community solar garden is sent to the grid and then distributed indiscriminately as soon as it is created.
What Happens if You Subscribe to a Community Solar Project and Then Move?
This depends on where you are moving to. If you move to a new home within the utility company’s service territory, you may continue your subscription. If, however, you are moving outside the utility’s service territory, you can either cancel your subscription, or transfer it to another eligible customer.
Is There a Fee For Ending a Community Solar Subscription Early?
This depends on the community solar project in question. In most cases it is likely that you will have to pay a termination fee, but this isn’t always the case. As noted earlier, this is a good question to ask when you are researching a community solar subscription. You should also ask if you will be required to participate for a set number of years.
What is the Community Solar Disclosure Form?
Contact information for the provider.
Details on how to file a complaint with the program administrator.
The length of the contract term.
A date for when you will start receiving bill credits.
Fees that you will be responsible for as the subscriber.
Whether or not the provider is guaranteeing savings.
As every company must fill out the same disclosure form, this makes it much easier for consumers to compare the different community solar offers across the board. Nonetheless, it is still important to ask your own questions and read any contract thoroughly before signing.
Interested in community solar? Get in touch with us today. YSG Solar has been operating in the solar sector for over 10 years, working on everything from small rooftop projects to large-scale solar farms. We will identify the ideal community solar project for your needs and guide you through the entire subscription process from start to finish. Call the office at 212.389.9215 or send us an email to learn how much you could save on your utility bill by signing up to a community solar project.
YSG Solar is a project development company responsible for commoditizing energy infrastructure projects. We work with long-term owners and operators to provide clean energy assets with stable, predictable cash flows. YSG's market focus is distributed generation and utility-scale projects located within North America.