ISEA Policy Blog

Welcome to the ISEA Policy Blog. Catch up on the latest issues related to the adoption of solar and small wind energy in Illinois. We welcome your feedback and referral of newsworthy developments. 

  • 16 Feb 2011 9:48 AM | Anonymous

    The U.S. Department of Energy added $77 million to stimulate solar and wind development in their SunShot initiative. By reducing the cost of photovoltaic solar energy systems by 75%, DOE hopes to make these systems cost competitive within in the next ten years.  This reduction will bring the cost for utility scale installations down to $1 a Watt, allowing solar systems to be more affordable and commonplace.

    U.S. Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, states "These efforts will boost our economic competitiveness, rebuild our manufacturing industry, and help reach the President's goal of doubling our clean energy in the next 25 years."  The SunShot initiative will focus on both improving solar cell technology and streamlining local permitting processes.  This focus on streamlining is extremely important, as one of the major roadblocks faced by solar companies and investors is the lack of a common permit process, resulting in slow and expensive procedures.  Read more about the need for a common permit process in our previous blog.

    The major focuses of Sunshot will be:
    • Technologies for solar cells and arrays that convert sunlight to energy;
    • Electronics that optimize the performance of the installation;
    • Improvements in the efficiency of solar manufacturing processes;
    • Installation, design and permitting for solar energy systems
    The DOE will also be awarding $27 million to 9 new renewable energy projects. Five of these will be geared towards further developing U.S. supply chains for PV manufacturing.  These five projects  are spread throughout the U.S. and focus on various parts of the U.S. energy supply chain.  Read further about the SunShot initiative and where other DOE funding will go.

    While none of the 5 projects are located in Illinois, we can take advantage of this heightened interest in solar power and support from DOE.  We want to spread the word that Illinois is a leader in the Midwest transition to renewable energy by displaying our solar companies, jobs and forward thinking.  How can you help?  Publicize your solar jobs!  Find out how in our previous blog and fill out this short survey about solar jobs in your company.  We hope that the SunShot initiative will improve solar technology, streamline permitting processes and make energy systems more affordable.  But we also have to show the rest of the country that Illinois is Ready for Solar, and that we are a leader in this field.

  • 07 Feb 2011 2:37 PM | Anonymous

    Much of the solar energy discussion has been focused on policies, goals and permits. While these are crucial in advancing the solar industry, spending so much time on regulations may cause us to overlook the astounding advances universities and solar companies are making every day.  From solar windows to cheap full-spectrum solar cells, we commend organizations out there dedicating themselves to advancing solar technology!

    Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories have developed a solar cell that responds to almost any wavelength of light.  Traditionally, solar cells respond to only a few wavelengths; therefore decreasing their possible efficiency.  Attempts to create solar cells that absorb energy from the entire light spectrum have been extremely expensive and only used on specific projects, such as spacecrafts.  Berkeley researchers, though, have discovered a way to combine various semiconductors to create a commercially viable solar cell that responds to the entire light spectrum.  Learn the specifics of this process here.

    New Energy Technologies, based in Columbia, Maryland is making it possible to generate electricity on see-thru glass windows.  They have created a coating for windows which supports electron movement and produces electricity.  New Energy is now trying to create a product that could be distributed commercially.  While most solar panels are made by a high-temperature, high-vacuum method, this product could be sprayed onto clear, glass windows.  Check out New Energy’s latest developments.

    If you think solar windows are the direction of the future, what about solar roads?  Scott Brusaw, an electrical engineer in Idaho, believes this is the next step.  Using super-strong glass instead of asphalt or concrete, the roads would remain heated and clear during harsh winter storms.  Brusaw’s idea has gained the attention of both GE and the federal government.  Read more in this article.

    Want to stay up-to-date on the solar industry and the constant technology advances?  Follow us on Twitter!

  • 02 Feb 2011 11:15 AM | Anonymous

    In the State of the Union this week, President Obama called for the United States to produce 80% of its electric power from clean energy by 2035.  But how feasible is this?  What are the major roadblocks standing in the way of solar power expansion?

    According to many solar panel businesses, it is the lack of consistency in solar permits.  As there is no common solar permit, the application process differs between cities, and even counties. Ken Button, the President of Verango Solar Plus, a residential solar panel installer in California, says that he has fifteen employees, “dedicated solely to researching and tailoring permit applications to meet the bureaucratic idiosyncrasies of the dozens of towns in the company’s market” (read more in this New York Time’s article).  This current structure delays installations, adds costs, frustrates installers, and is time consuming and confusing for solar businesses. 

    A recent report by SunRun states that the permit process adds an average of $2,500 in costs to each installation.  Streamlining this could provide a $1 billion stimulus to the residential and commercial solar power market over the next five years.  Having a consistent process for all permits would eliminate extraneous fees and increase safety.  The American Solar Energy Society looks at the other benefits of a common permit application.

    Would a national permit application help move us toward President Obama’s goal?  Join the discussion on our LinkedIn page!

  • 25 Jan 2011 12:24 PM | Anonymous

    How many renewable energy jobs has your business created?  According to a recent blog on Renewable Energy World, publicizing this information may greatly increase awareness and support for renewable energy! 

    Many renewable energy opponents vocalize that spending time and money on green energy is not viable in our country’s current economy.  They correlate financially backing renewable energy with destroying jobs. Unfortunately, these individuals do not see that the creation of renewable energy businesses will in turn create numerous jobs! Therefore, publicizing the constant creation of renewable energy jobs will provide legislators and advocates with solid numbers to support renewable energy and display this field as a source of new jobs.

    What can you do, as a solar energy business professional to publicize new jobs in your company?  Tor Valenza has great tips in his blog “Psst! Solar Fred Marketing and Advocacy Tip: ‘It's the Jobs.’ (Shh! Don't tell the coal lovers.)”:
    • Publicize how solar (and your company) are helping the economy. Did you know that the solar job growth rate is expected to be 26% between August 2010 and August 2011? Work this into blogs and other sales pitches for your company.
    • Write a press release and/or blog post every time you hire someone.  You might receive some attention from the local press.
    • Publish your job numbers on your web site.  Just like McDonald’s has “Over a billion served” on its signs, add a simple, “Thanks to you, X solar jobs have been created since (years in business)” to your web site “home page,” “about us” or “contact us” page.
    • Use social networking to publish job openings and hires. If you’re on social media sites, advertise job openings on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin. 

    Check out Valenza’s blog for more great tips for your company.

    How many solar jobs do you have in your company?  We want to know!  If you are an Illinois solar business, tell us how many filled and available positions are in your company through this brief survey!  We want to be able to pass on hard numbers to other advocates and show that Illinois should invest in solar energy!

  • 18 Jan 2011 7:30 PM | Anonymous

    Thank you to everyone who attended Solar Drinks last Tuesday, Jan. 11th!  With over 40 guests in attendance, the evening provided an opportunity for renewable energy professionals in the Chicago area to meet and share ideas with one another.  A special thank you to Lisa Albrecht and Jeremy Jones for presenting on the evening’s topic, renewable energy policy!  Great discussions ensued over solar installations, upcoming legislation and what we can do.  Remember to mark your calendars for our next Solar Drinks on March 8th at Eastgate Café.  Financing Solar will be the evening’s topic.  Register here for Solar Drinks.

    In keeping with the topic of policy, ISEA works with the Environmental Law and Policy Center to create annual legislative goals.  The following are a few of these goals for 2011 (check out our previous blog for other objectives):

    1. Creating an Alternative Compliance Payments or other penalty for non-compliance with the Renewable Portfolio Standards (applicable to Alternative Retail Energy Suppliers).  This would ensure that all retail suppliers comply with the RPS requirement that 6% of electric sales (in 2011) come from renewables.  If they do not comply, they will be penalized.

    2. Working with PACE financing if the federal nationwide lien position issue is resolved.  While the PACE program is currently at a standstill, this program provides a financing model for energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements to homes and commercial buildings.  Not familiar with PACE? Take a look at our previous blog, “PACE Program Update” to learn more.

    3. Elimination or avoidance of the 2% rate cap on renewable expenditures.  The rate cap was put in place until 2011, at which time the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) is to report to the General Assembly if the 2% rate cap "unduly constrains the procurement of cost-effective renewable energy resources."  The ISEA & ELPC believe the rate cap does constrain procurement and recommend it be eliminated.

    Want to learn about other renewable energy legislation?  Check out our Policy page.

    And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter for solar energy updates!

  • 10 Jan 2011 11:39 AM | Anonymous

    If you are reading this blog (first of all, thank you for supporting our work and please continue to do so through our Illinois is Ready for Solar campaign!) you most likely have an interest in solar energy. You may work in the renewable energy field or hope to do so with the creation of green jobs. Regardless of your connection to solar energy, do you know the current policies and proposed legislation surrounding renewable energy? Most people do not. We, at the Illinois Solar Energy Association, partner with other organizations to create annual legislative goals. ISEA and the Environmental Law & Policy Center have created the following goals for the 2011 session:

    1. Raising the net metering cap to 1-2 MW. This would encourage big box stores to install solar by extending the retail-to-retail rate from the current 40 kW, expanding projects for installers and increasing the amount of solar energy generated. Learn more about net metering in ISEA’s "‘Freeing the Grid’ Grades States on Renewable Energy Policies" blog.
    2. Extending the now expired in-state preference for renewables used to meet the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). Through 2011, electrical utilities must utilize eligible in-state renewable energy resources. After 2011, equal preference is given to resources in-state and in adjacent states.
    3. Creating a solar prioritization such that Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs) are procured first to meet the solar RPS. If this is not achieved, wind energy may use all of the funding and hit the current 2% rate cap on all renewable expenditures. This 2% rate cap will be reviewed by the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) in 2011, who will report to the General Assembly if it "unduly constrains the procurement of cost-effective renewable energy resources." We will delve more into this issue in an upcoming blog.

    These are only half of the legislative goals and three more will be presented in our next blog. Stay tuned and Check out ISEA’s policy page to look at other legislation.

    If you are interested in renewable energy policy, be sure to register for Solar Drinks in Chicago on Jan. 11th! Mix and mingle with other professionals interested in renewable energy.

    ISEA is now on Twitter! Follow us and stay up-to-date on solar energy news.

  • 04 Jan 2011 4:47 PM | Anonymous

    What is your new year’s resolution? In 2011, do you want to dedicate more of your time to a cause you feel passionately about? How about a cause that increases local job opportunities, educates Illinoisans about energy issues and ensures that future generations will have healthy, sustainable communities through energy research and advocacy? If so, the Illinois Solar Energy Association would love to have your support!

    Whether you are a solar energy vendor or a green jobs enthusiast, there are numerous ways to get involved! Becoming a volunteer is a great way to lend your expertise in design, research, outreach, marketing… and the list goes on. Wherever your personal interests fall in the renewable energy realm, we have a volunteer opportunity for you.

    What if you would like to support the ISEA but do not have time to volunteer? Becoming a member may be the perfect median. Through this membership, you receive access to Member Only events, discussions on the website and reduced fees for classes. Check out the Membership section of the ISEA site to learn more about this opportunity, as well as sponsorships.

    Another way to show your support is through donations. The ISEA would not function without your financial support, and we thank our loyal supporters who continue to believe in the importance of advancing renewable energy in Illinois.

    This January, the ISEA began an Illinois is Ready for Solar campaign. Check out the campaign page to learn more, and help us reach our goal of $150,000 by December 2011!

  • 03 Jan 2011 8:31 PM | Anonymous

    As 2010 came to a close, Illinois ushered in the new year with strides in renewable energy! On Dec. 22, Governor Pat Quinn announced the implementation of long-term renewable energy agreements. These efforts confirm Illinois’s position as a "… leader in developing the green economy, and this support for renewable resources will keep us on the cutting-edge," according to Quinn.

    The 20-year agreements allow select wind and power energy venders to supply Ameren and ComEd with renewable electricity. This brings Illinois one step closer to its goal of 25% of energy provided to smaller customers to be generated by renewable energy sources by 2025. Not only do these partnerships demonstrate Illinois’s leadership in the transition to renewable energy, they also put people to work and boost our economy. As 2011 begins, we hope others locally and nationally follow in these footsteps to a renewable energy economy.

    Who are these select wind and power energy venders? Check out the press release to find out.

    The Illinois Solar Energy Association and the Environmental Law and Policy Center consider meeting the 25% renewable energy goal a priority over the coming years. Illinois needs to extend the now expired in-state preference for renewables to ensure new jobs and projects are created in Illinois. Additionally, we should place a priority on solar energy. Before wind energy uses up the funding and hits the current 2% rate cap on all renewable expenditures, Solar Renewable Energy Certificates should be procured first to meet the Solar Renewable Portfolio Standards.To learn more other 2011 priorities, visit the ISEA and ELPC websites.

  • 17 Dec 2010 11:51 AM | Anonymous

    The Network for New Energy Choices released their 2010 Freeing the Grid report!  In this report, states are graded on their net metering and interconnection policies.  So what exactly is net metering?  It is an electricity policy that allows consumers to offset some or all of their energy use with their own renewable energy.  While many people know net metering as the process that “enable’s a customer’s electric meter to spin backwards”, the electric meter actually spins in both directions depending on their own energy production and consumption.  The meter spins forward when the customer is using more energy than he is producing, thus drawing from the grid.  The meter spins backwards when the customer is producing more energy than he is using, thus sending energy out to the grid.  At the end of the month, the customer is only billed for the net energy used.  If the customer produces more energy than he uses, he is either credited that amount for the next billing cycle or he is compensated for that amount.

    How does the Network for Energy Choices grade a state on their net metering policies?  There are certain variables, such as allowing the monthly carryover of excess electricity at the utility’s full retail rate, allowing all renewable technologies to net meter, and allowing all customer classes to net meter.  Click here to see the full range of criteria used in these grades.

    The second major factor in the Freeing the Grid report is interconnection.  This is the process under which a generator can connect to the distribution grid.  Each state regulates these policies and various standards should be upheld, such as setting fair fees that are proportional to a project’s size and ensuring that policies are transparent, uniform, detailed and public.  Read more of these standards.

    So how did the states stack up? Much better than in the last few years!   In 2010, 37 states received “A” or “B” grades for their net metering policies, up from 13 states in 2007.  Massachusetts and Utah received exceptional “A” grades in both interconnection and net metering. This is the first time in the report’s history that any state has achieved “A” grades in both categories.  Where did Illinois fit in?  Check out the Freeing the Grid report and see for yourself!

    If you would like to learn more about the topic, The Interstate Renewable Energy Council released a comprehensive report on net metering in competing energy markets.

    Feel passionately about renewable energy?  Want to mix and mingle with others in the Chicago area that feel the same way?  Don’t forget to register for ISEA’s membership meeting and annual report tomorrow, Dec. 18, at the Chicago Center for Green Technology.

  • 12 Dec 2010 3:56 PM | Anonymous

    On Thursday, December 9th, Congress introduced a bill that will provide a one-year extension of the Treasury Grant Program (TGP). This program enables builders to receive grants for their renewable energy projects. Since its inception, TGP has spurred over 1,000 solar energy projects across the nation, creating numerous jobs for Americans. Rhone Resch, President of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), released a statement saying, "An extension of the program will keep our U.S. industry growing and help achieve the industry's goal of installing enough new solar energy to power 2 million new homes each year by 2015". This vote on this bill is expected to be Monday. (Read more)

    Not only will the solar energy industry benefit from the extension; Denis Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) is optimistic. Bode released a statement, "Factories across the country will restart production lines, recall workers, and avoid layoffs that would have followed the loss of this key incentive for wind energy. With consistent policies like this one, wind energy can generate 20 percent of America’s electricity within 20 years, and employ half a million Americans."

    Check out the Environmental Law and Policy Center and Vote Solar to learn more about this bill. If you would like to support this bill, it is important to contact your legislators today!

    To learn who your legislators are click here.

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