Solar Energy in Illinois – Where Do We Stand?
By Glenn Reed, CPA
ISEA Treasurer and Board Member
Where does Illinois stand compared to other states in terms of energy production-- especially solar? With 13 million people, Illinois ranks 5th in population1, but only 11th in total energy production2.
Where does Illinois’ energy come from? Mostly fossil fuels. We’re number one in the US for electricity produced from nuclear energy, and number three for coal2. Not such a good thing when you consider that 90% of the uranium purchased for US commercial reactors comes from outside the US2. Plus, Illinois is a net importer of coal, despite the fact that a huge amount of it is mined right here in our state3.
Another concern with coal is air pollution. Largely due to burning coal, Illinois is ranked 6th in the nation for sulfur emissions2 and 5th for CO2 emissions4. More than 38% of Illinois CO2 emissions come directly from electric power generation4.
What about renewable energy? Illinois ranks 34th in percentage of power generated by renewables5. Folks, we can do better!
That said, there is some good news on the renewables front. Illinois ranks 15th in the nation in wind energy potential. We are in the top four states in terms of installed wind power, with more than 3,500 MW of installed capacity6. Way to go!
What about solar? The US has incredibly abundant solar energy at our fingertips-- nearly 400,000 TWh/year, or 100 times our total energy consumption in 20117! Why not use it?
Is it sunny enough for solar to work here in Illiois? Absolutely. Mt. Prospect, Illinois has more solar irradiance than Miami, Florida during June, July, and August, measured in kWh/m2/day of sunlight falling onto a horizontal surface8. And we’re putting it to work. Illinois ranks 22nd in installed solar capacity, with over 52MW. In 2013 alone, 2 MW of solar was installed here. Currently, there are over 184 solar installation and related companies in our state, employing over 2,100 people9.
Is solar growing? Absolutely. Over 4,750 MW of photovoltaic capacity was installed in the US in 2013-- a 41% increase over 2012. We just need to have more of that growth here in Illinois. In 2012, solar contributed to 10% of all new electricity generation capacity. In 2013, it jumped to 29%, making solar the second largest source of new electricity generating capacity, behind natural gas5.
Illinois can be a leader in renewables, as it has been in other forms of energy. Doing so will mean cleaner air, lower energy prices, and more jobs here in Illinois.
- U.S. Census (2010 Actual, 2013 Estimate)
- U.S. Energy Information Administration (eia.gov)
- David Kashi, International Business Times, January 15, 2014
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (epa.gov)
- U.S Department of Energy (energy.gov)
- American Wind Energy Association (awea.org)
- Anthony Lopez, Billy Roberts, Donna Heimiller, Nate Blair, and Gian Porro, U.S. Renewable Energy Technical Potentials: A GIS-Based Analysis, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Technical Report NREL/TP-6A20-51946, July 2012
- Michael Boxwell, The Solar Electricity Handbook, 2014 Edition,Greenstream Publishing
- Solar Energy Industry Association (seia.org)
A member since 2003, Glenn has attended solar and wind workshops, and volunteered for the Illinois Solar Tour and other events. Glenn is a principal at Green CPA, co-founder of Northwest Suburban Green Drinks, and Treasurer of Mt. Prospect Toastmasters. With management and biology degrees from Purdue, he brings over 10 years of accounting experience. Glenn is also a member of the AICPA, ICPAS, ASES, USGBC, and Fox Valley Electric Auto Association. His vision is to help the ISEA continue to grow by strengthening its financial base, through enhanced reporting and fundraising efforts.