Solar surges in Illinois following passage of landmark clean energy law


Legislation passed five months ago in Illinois has spurred more than 2,000 solar installations, or enough to power 30,000 homes. To meet workforce needs, new job training programs have been launched, and hiring expanded.

The Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (SB 2408), passed last September, is an energy package that sets the state on a trajectory toward 100% clean energy by 2050. The law also provides immediate steps that help accelerate the renewable energy transition that’s already underway in Illinois. Among the many provisions is $34 million in funding for a grant program to provide seed capital to emerging disadvantaged businesses; $1 million for the Jobs and Justice Fund, a nonprofit “green bank” that will infuse disadvantaged businesses with capital; $21 million for a 16 clean energy workforce training hubs across the state.

Prior to the passing of the act, residential solar installations were down nearly 90% in Q2 last year compared to 2020, as the state was in “solar incentive limbo”. Just 313 small rooftop solar projects were completed statewide in Q2 2021, compared to 2,908 a year earlier. In fact, SEIA ranked Illinois 21st in solar installations in 2021, after holding at #13 the previous year. But what a difference legislation makes. Data from the Illinois Power Agency shows that:

  • 8,052 waitlisted solar projects have moved forward and are expected to be approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission this month.
  • 250MW of new community solar projects have been approved– when completed, these projects will allow an estimated 35,000 families to lower their electric bills without installing solar panels.

A survey of solar businesses in Illinois found that:

  • More than 2,000 rooftop and community solar projects have already been installed and are generating enough electricity to power more than 30,000 homes.
  • Illinois businesses will complete more than 8,400 rooftop and community solar projects by the end of 2022.
  • Businesses are hiring rapidly and the workforce in the state is expected to increase 47% by the end of this year.

The Illinois Power Agency maintains an online map of solar projects that participate in the state’s adjustable block program here – roughly 25,000 solar projects have been completed since the program launched in 2017. The Agency is currently developing its long-term renewable energy plan that will establish the path for renewable energy growth for coming years. The plan will establish an Equity Eligible Contractor certification and an Equity Accountability System in the next 12-18 months.

SEIA estimates that 3,235MW of solar will be installed in Illinois over the next 5 years, or a rank of 12th in the nation.

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