Illinois Experiences Increase In Solar Power Installations

Solar Energy Solutions

Due to recently imposed tariffs on imported solar cells by the Trump administration, the United States saw a slump in the number of solar-panel related jobs last year, but Illinois bucked the trend. Despite the current economic climate in the solar market, the state managed to add an impressive 1,308 solar-related jobs, thanks to the burgeoning number of solar power installations requested by individuals and businesses. 

Illinois was one of just eight states in the country that managed to add solar industry jobs in 2018, growing the total number of people employed in the sector to more than 5,000 – a 37 percent increase over the previous year. 

Why Is The Demand For Solar Booming In Illinois? 

The reason for the surge in demand has to do with the falling price of solar installation and the growing opportunities for people to make a return on solar power. While the industry experienced a temporary setback overall in 2018 because of the 30% tariffs on imported solar components, the overall downward trend in the cost of solar power continues to open up new opportunities. 

Lesley McCain, director at the Illinois Solar Energy Association, predicts that the state hasn’t seen anything yet when it comes to solar growth. There is, in his view, a considerable amount of pent-up demand for solar power that will unravel over the coming years. The industry, he says, is ready to create tens of thousands of jobs as soon as the economics work in its favor. While 2018 was not a very successful year for solar panels, manufacturers continue to make progress in reducing the price of solar, both at home and abroad.

The solar market will likely expand extraordinarily fast in Illinois over the coming years because of a backlog of large solar projects that are still waiting to get off the ground. The Future Energy Jobs Act of 2016 put ambitious solar and renewable goals in place to help the state get off its oil and coal dependence and become a green powerhouse. The Act set aggressive targets for Illinois that will require an enormous influx of labor and capital to achieve them. 

Part of McCain’s optimism has to do with the Path 100 Act, a new bill introduced by state representatives that would allow the construction of more than 7,500 megawatts of commercial and residential solar power, and 6,000 megawatts of utility-scale installations. The Act, according to Sean Gallagher of the Solar Energy Industries Association, would make Illinois one of the fastest-growing solar markets in the country and could explain why it added so many new jobs, even in a down year. 

Illinois Solar Data Current Through: Q2 2019

The growth and size of the solar industry in Illinois is far more significant than many people imagine. We are very much at “the knee of the curve,” close to the exponential phase where solar will take off in a way that affects people’s lives. 

Take a look at these statistics that chart the growth of solar in the state:

  • Illinois has a total of more than 139 MW of solar installed, with an additional 26.3 MV introduced in 2018 alone.
  • Total solar installations in Illinois will grow by more than 1,700 percent over the next five years. 
  • The state currently employs 4,879 in the solar industry. 
  • Illinois currently acquires 0.1 percent of its energy needs from solar.
  • The cost of solar installation has fallen by more than 32 percent in the last five years.
  • Illinois is now home to more than 6,035 solar installations at the residential, commercial and utility-scale.
  • Illinois renewable portfolio standard states that the state must derive 25 percent of its energy requirements from solar by the year 2025. 
  • Total solar investment in the state stands at $386.22 million.
  • Illinois ranks 34th among all states for total solar power installed (33rd in 2018).

Illinois State Solar Incentives Are Driving Installations

The growth in solar installations across Illinois isn’t without reason. The state operates several incentives to encourage the development of renewable energy systems. 

One of the solar incentives in Illinois is the Solar Renewable Energy Credit or SREC program, an Illinois Shines Program initiative designed to increase the number of solar installations in the state and decarbonize the local economy. 

The way that SRECs work is simple. Homeowners or businesses install a solar panel system and begin generating clean electricity. Once they can demonstrate that they’ve added 1,000 kilowatts to the grid, they can apply for a SREC, which pays them for each 1,000 kW unit of energy that they produce. The value of a SREC varies from state to state, depending on its renewable energy goals. Illinois has quite lofty goals, so SREC payments tend to be high. 

People who use SRECs to their advantage can often save a substantial amount of money off their electricity bills and the total cost of solar power in Illinois. Savings from this incentive alone can be upwards of 30 percent of the total cost of installation, making solar power more competitive than many traditional energy generation technologies, even on a small scale.

Federal Solar Tax Credits

On top of the Illinois state credits, there are additional Federal credits designed to encourage solar uptake. 

Federal credits are different from a deduction in taxable income. Deductions allow you to reduce your taxable income by the amount that you spend on your solar system. A tax credit, on the other hand, reduces the amount of tax that you have to pay by some percentage of the cost of the system. 

The current rules for 2020 allow homeowners in Illinois to reduce their tax bill for the year by 26 percent of the value of any installed solar systems. So, for instance, suppose that a homeowner has to pay $5000 in tax to the federal government in 2021. The tax credit allows him to reduce his tax bill by 26 percent of the price of the solar installation. If the solar installation costs $15,000, then the homeowner can reduce his tax bill by 26 percent of that amount: $3,900, only paying $1,100 in taxes for the year. That’s quite an incentive!

If you want to take advantage of these tax benefits, you should act fast: they won’t be around forever. Both the state of Illinois and the federal government want to get the ball rolling on solar and help the industry become more established. But they know that eventually, they will hit their environmental targets, negating the need for any special incentives. The advice? Strike now, while there are the most financial benefits. The tax credit is 30 percent in 2020, 26 percent in 2021, and 22 percent in 2022. 

While the majority of the conversation about solar power incentives concerns homeowners, there are some available to businesses that install solar too.

Verde Solutions is a SEIA (Solar Energy Industries Association) Member

The Solar Energy Industries Association (often abbreviated SEIA) is a trade organization that represents firms and workers in the solar industry in Illinois and across the US. The purpose of the organization is to remove the market barriers to solar, create more jobs in the industry, and champion solar technology. 

Verde Solutions is a SEIA (Solar Energy Industries Association) Member offering commercial solar solutions. Just like SEIA, it wants solar to be the most significant contributor to new capacity in the grid over the following years and to create a larger market. 

Commercial companies that have high peak energy demand can benefit enormously from installing solar power. The ROI on solar systems is spectacular, and prices can be locked in, without worrying about fluctuations in costs. Currently, more than 1,300 businesses across the US use solar systems installed by Verde Solutions across 48 states. 

RxSun is the residential branch of Verde Solutions, offering solar panel installation for homeowners to help get the cost of electricity down. Again, homeowners should act now to take advantage of the various Illinois incentives and tax credits before they disappear. 

RxSun, based out of Chicago, offers a complete solar installation service. The company sources the solar panels installs them, and even donates 1,000 meals to children for every residential solar system installed. The company prides itself on the quality of its workmanship and its highly responsive customer service. It offers a 10-year service warranty on all installations and a 25-year warranty on all equipment, including solar panels. All fittings are overseen by nationally-recognized certified NABCEP professionals to ensure quality and reliability. 

Conclusion

The number of solar panel installations in Illinois is set to explode over the coming years. The next decade will lead to the creation of thousands of new jobs as the state builds out its solar capacity. Workers will be required in almost equal measure for small-scale commercial and residential installations, as well as the much larger utility-scale operations. While solar comprises just 0.1 percent of Illinois’ electricity-generating capacity today, that number will rise substantially – perhaps as high as 25 percent – by the year 2025. 

Are you considering installing solar panels on your home or business premises?

About Verde Solutions

Verde Solutions is full service, energy efficiency consultant firm founded on three main principles; Innovation, Sustainability, and Efficiency. At Verde, we create value for our clients and communities by providing innovative energy-efficient solutions. By reducing energy use and utilizing renewable energy, we lower costs and set a sustainable path for the future.