Shining the light on solar energy is one of the main goals of the Illinois Solar Energy Association’s (ISEA) new educational tools.
The ISEA recently launched several educational tools to help the public better understand community solar projects. These tools include SolarFarmTour.org, which provides a close look at an Illinois solar farm through videos and photos, a frequently asked questions resource and a fact sheet. The websites cover topics such as economic impacts, solar farm decommissioning and property values.
The ISEA’s tools aim to educate the public, elected officials and members of the media on solar energy, according to the July 31 press release.
“ISEA has created these educational resources in response to the significant increased interest in community solar due to the passage of the Future Energy Jobs Act,” said Lesley McCain, ISEA executive director. “This exciting piece of legislation supports 3,000 megawatts [MW] of new solar from all market segments to be developed in the state by 2030.”
There are an increasing number of community solar projects in the state. Illinois’ community solar program enables individuals to lower their electric bills by subscribing to purchase a portion of their electricity from a solar farm. They can then receive credits on their electricity bill for the electricity that the solar installation produces.
Over the years, solar resources have become available for cities, organizations and homeowners. There are online tools, like this one from the Center for Sustainable Energy and EnergySage, that help connect multifamily property owners with solar contractors; solar co-ops to make community solar more feasible; resources exploring Solar Market Pathways projects, which include approaches to accelerating solar energy deployment in the U.S.; educational guides that focus on the financing behind solar; maps that show community solar projects across the country; and more.
Before the ISEA’s educational tools, there weren’t Illinois-specific resources to help residents understand solar projects in their state, McCain explained.
“Many people in Illinois have never been near a solar farm,” McCain said. “We hope these resources will help people understand how solar farms operate and how they can fit into agricultural and residential areas.”
Illinois has recently seen a surge in solar projects. The ISEA expects up to 2,000 MW of ground-mounted solar farms to be installed in the state by 2021. This could create more construction and operations jobs and add $250–350 million in property tax revenue, over a 25-year lifespan.
The Solar Energy Industries Association estimates that Illinois will experience 1,399 MW growth in the next five years. The state follows a renewable portfolio standard that requires it to generate 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025.
“We wanted to ensure that homeowners, as well as municipal and county decision makers, understood the benefits of solar and what it is like to have a larger solar project in their community,” McCain said. “ISEA will continue to work to provide educational resources on solar energy.”