Illinois Prepares for the Future of Solar Energy

Illinois is leading the charge to a more sustainable future. With serious solar growth in residential, commercial, and utility-scale solar, SEIA named Illinois 13th in its rankings of the best states for solar. Illinois is projected to install over 1,500 MW of PV during the next 5 years. The state’s bright future is thanks to participation at every level; citizens, organizations, city officials and members of the Illinois State Assembly have all contributed their part in creating a better way to power Illinois.


Path to 100 Pushes for Clean Energy Economy


Illinois lawmakers are working with community leaders, environmental groups, businesses and utility companies to develop legislation that will accelerate the deployment of renewable energy resources in their state. They hope to expand on the progress of the 2016 Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA), which has developed stable renewable energy jobs within the state over the past 3 years. New legislation is expected to create a booming clean-energy economy over the coming decades.


Perhaps the most well-known bill is SB 1781, dubbed the “Path to 100 Act,” which has been sponsored by Senator Bill Cunningham of Chicago. The bill aims to expand Illinois’ current Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which requires the state to source 25% of its energy from renewables by 2025. The Path to 100 Act would add another requirement for the state to reach 37.5% renewable energy by 2030. If passed, this expanded RPS mandate would be fulfilled in part by renewable energy credits generated from solar and wind installations. Legislators hope that more aggressive renewable legislation will help spur the state to run on 100% renewable energy by 2050.


The Path to 100 Act also pushes for additional state funding to encourage solar adoption and ensure the state can meet its ambitious RPS goals. All stakeholders involved appear to understand the urgency of energy reforms. 


One estimate for the Path to 100 Act expects the bill to create as much as 21,000 new jobs, and $2.8 billion in new property taxes over 20 years. 


Chicago Leads the Way


The City of Chicago has been taking its own measures to accelerate the adoption of commercial and residential solar. Permitting and zoning restrictions have long been traditional barriers to going solar. Even when prospective owners are eager and ready to break ground on their new installations, too often their projects have to wait a month or more until getting approval by local municipalities. The City of Chicago has made strides in reducing approval times by easing restrictions and streamlining permitting processes, saving installation owners and contractors time and money. 


There are two types of permitting processes for installing PV systems on existing structures in Chicago: the Easy Permitting Process for smaller systems, and the Standard Plan Review process for larger systems. Solar installations that will be included in the construction of new buildings will have their permits bundled in with the new structure’s building permits.


Determining which application process your installation will be eligible for can be done by reading and filling out the Department of Buildings’ Photovoltaic Panel Permitting Guidelines. These guidelines provide you with all the details you need to know for your installation, and they also serve as an essential piece of your application. Below are a few key details about each of the two permits.


Easy Process Permit
Installations 13.44 kW and smaller
-One-day approval process
-Must include drawings and calculations completed by an architect or structural engineer
-Your completed application package must be submitted by a licensed general/installation contractor in good standing with the City of Chicago
-Application cost: $275


Standard Plan Review
Installations greater than 13.44 kW and larger
-Permit is typically issued in 30 days or less after zoning is approved
-Must include drawings and calculations completed by an architect or structural engineer
-Your PV Panel Contractor or Solar Contractor must be listed as the General Contractor for the project
-A licensed architect, or a licensed structural engineer must be the submitter of your permit application and supporting materials
-Application cost: $375


Both permit processes require inspections by the Chicago Department of Buildings and ComEd, the local power utility, before the system can be powered on.