Soltage, a Jersey City, N.J.-based utility and distributed generation solar developer, launched the construction of three Illinois community solar projects with 7.24 MWdc of total power generation.
Two of the projects, Bolton Freeport Solar 1 (2.58 MW) and Freeport Fairview Solar 2 (2.58 MW), are located in Commonwealth Edison service territory in northern Illinois, and the third project, Danville Michigan Solar 1 (1.81 MW), is located in Ameren’s service territory in Danville, Ill., in the eastern part of the state.
MC Squared Energy Services is the subscription manager for the community solar platform, while the customer concentration is expected to consist of residential, local commercial businesses and municipal customers in the Freeport and Danville areas.
“Customers who subscribe to these projects receive significant savings on their electricity bills, as well as price certainty over time as these projects will be running for many decades,” said Jon Cole, senior vice president of development, Soltage. These projects demonstrate Soltage’s commitment to build out clean energy infrastructure to serve Illinois customers. The addition of these projects brings Soltage’s community solar portfolio in the state to 11 projects, the company said.
The three projects, once constructed, are anticipated to provide more than 10,000 MWh of clean energy per year and operate for a minimum of 40 years.
A Soltage spokeswoman told pv magazine USA that the three projects are employing an agrivoltaics protocol utilizing a native pollinator species at each of the project sites. These will feature 27 varieties of low-profile and pollinator-friendly native vegetation planted across over 20 acres of land. In addition to producing clean energy, the projects will serve as a critical habitat for local flora and fauna, the company said.
“Dual-use projects serve multiple purposes and generate many values that jump off the page when you take a second to look at them,” Dan French, executive producer of Solar Farm Summit, LLC, told pv magazine USA. “Solar developers are starting to figure it out, and the fact that agrivoltaics is scaling so strongly in Illinois is powerful evidence that these practices can already pencil. Proper cropping may not come at scale until down the road a ways, but we know that advanced conservation with beneficial vegetation works now, and that’s why it’s booming,” French added.
The Illinois Community Solar Program was enacted in 2018 by the Future Energy Jobs Act to support the development of new distributed generation and community solar projects across Illinois. A component of the program, the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, obligates the Illinois Commerce Commission to take various actions to implement new programs, initiatives, and directives to further the State’s goals of transitioning the state to 100% clean energy.
According to the Illinois Shines’ website, the state has 62 community solar projects in operation or advanced development across the Ameren and ComEd territories.
By the end of 2023, ComEd recently said it expects to double its current cumulative installation to more than 150 community solar projects installed, serving more than 36,000 customers across its more than 11,400 square mile service territory in northern Illinois. The utility recently completed its 75th community solar project, Speedway Solar, a 2.5 MW facility in Joliet, Illinois, built by Summit Ridge Energy.
Solar in Illinois practically did not exist until 2019, when the Illinois Shines program was introduced, creating renewable energy credits that pay residential and commercial solar asset owners based on their system’s production. The state has also a rich community solar offering under Illinois Shines and a healthy mix of residential, commercial, and community solar installations.
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), Illinois ranks tenth in the U.S. by its robust 5.7 GW development pipeline of projects to be installed over the next five years. The state brought online 583 MW of projects in 2022, SEIA reports.
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