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. 

  • 29 Sep 2011 7:32 PM | Michelle Hickey
    The ELPC conference call will be at 9:30 am Central Time Friday.  We will summarize how the IPA Procurement plan was modified to include distributed SRECs and we'll answer any questions you may have.  The dial in details are:
    Call in number 866-394-4146
    Participant Pass code 11188695

    Wednesday evening (9/28) the IPA released its proposed procurement plan to the ICC.  The plan included a process to procure SRECs from distributed solar energy systems and reflected our recommendations on how the program could be structured.  It also included our recommendation for a workshop process to design program details with input from a broad range of stakeholders.   
    This is great news and it would not have happened without the comments that many of you filed with the IPA.  However, this is only the beginning of the ICC's review process and it will take a lot of work to make sure the plan is approved by the December 27th deadline.  
    The ICC's briefing schedule begins on Monday, when objections to the plan are due.  ELPC will intervene in the case and file support for the plan.  We anticipate that there will be objections and that we will need to stay actively involved to defend the proposed distributed SREC procurement program.  There will be an ongoing opportunity to file public comments and we encourage all of you to do so.  We will provide additional information on tomorrow's call.
  • 29 Sep 2011 10:45 AM | Michelle Hickey
    Thank you to those of you who submitted comments to the Illinois Power Agency (IPA) about the lack of distributed solar in the 2012 Draft Procurement Plan.  

    Click here to read ELPC’s comments

    Click here to read other parties' comments
    There was a solid response from supporters of a distributed solar program – this is clearly an issue that many residents and businesses care about in Illinois.
    As the next step in the process, the IPA will submit the FINAL Procurement Plan to the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) next Wednesday, September 28th.  At that point, the ICC will initiate a formal proceeding to seek additional comments and solicit input about the controversial issues.  This process will last until the end of December, at which point they will issue an order either approving or modifying the plan.
    We do not know yet whether the Final Plan will include a distributed solar procurement.  Either way, it will be an uphill battle to obtain ICC approval, and generating additional public comments will be essential.
    Conference Call Friday 9/30 at 9:30 am. 

    • summarize the solar procurement provisions in the IPA’s Final Plan,
    • outline the schedule for the ICC proceeding,
    • and highlight the opportunities for you to influence the ICC’s final decision. 
    Thank you,
    The Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC) Solar Team
  • 20 Sep 2011 10:55 AM | Michelle Hickey
    The IL DCEO Solar & Wind Rebate for FY2012 is CLOSED. 

    Please educate your legislators about how quickly this program closed due to lack of funding.  The speed of allocation demonstrates that people are ready to install solar and wind, and jobs could be supported if the rebate were better funded.
  • 17 Sep 2011 3:39 PM | Anonymous

    Solyndra, the California-based solar-panel maker, recently filed for bankruptcy.  This event was used by the media to announce the end of solar technology, which couldn’t be farther from the truth.  The solar industry is thriving more than ever before.

     The attention is understandable, as Solyndra received a $535M loan from the Department of Energy in 2009.  In the scheme of loan guarantees, though, this only accounted for 1.2% of the total $38.6B loan guarantees issued by DOE (read more).  And being the only of these companies to file for bankruptcy, the attention should not be focused on the energy-loan guarantee program.  Solyndra remains the exception to the rule (read more).

     With that being said, what happened to Solyndra?  Simply put, solar is getting cheaper and cheaper.  Specifically, silicon is getting less expensive.  Companies, such as Solyndra, whose business models require a higher price, are unable to keep up with the competition (read more).  When Solyndra began, silicon was the dominant raw material for PVs.  As the solar market here and in Europe took off, there were silicon shortages, and it became expensive.  As solar-grade silicon was never demanded before in such high quantities, the supply did not yet exist and prices went up (read more).  Most solar companies invested their time and energy into alternative solar methods.  Solyndra , among other companies such as Nanosolar, Miasole, HelioVolt, received millions of venture capital dollars to look for other non-silicon solar methods.

      As one would expect, silicon prices have since tumbled.  Therefore, Solyndra’s  $2/Watt technology was unable to compete against $1/Watt silicon PV.    In fact, the solar industry has reduced the cost of solar by 70% since 2009!  This increase in competition and reduction in cost proves that solar is a growing market.  It is more affordable than ever for consumers to invest in solar.  “As of June, California utilities have signed over 8 GW of solar contracts…half of which are below the price of new natural gas generation.  That’s right – “gigawatts of solar cheaper than the fossil fuel alternatives.” (Read more).  While Solyndra closing is not a positive event in itself, it represents the growing market of solar power and the renewable energy field!  Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to stay up to date on Solyndra and other renewable energy news!

  • 16 Sep 2011 5:57 PM | Michelle Hickey
    The Born's (site 32) are ready for you to visit their home on October 1st as part of the 5th annual Illinois Solar Tour.  Their home is equipped with a 5 kW PV array to provide the majority of their electricity needs and to charge their new Chevy Volt.


  • 09 Sep 2011 5:16 PM | Michelle Hickey
    Solar and Energy Rebate Program is now open and accepting applications for Fiscal Year 2012.

    IL DCEO website - guidelines and application

    Download Application Form

    There are a few changes to the program:
    1. The biggest change to the program is that the per watt incentive limits for solar PV and wind energy projects have been decreased, as has the maximum rebate amount.   Rebates will be limited to no more than $2.25/watt for solar photovoltaic systems and $2.00/watt for wind energy systems purchased by residential and business entities, and $3.75/watt for solar photovoltaic systems and $3.25/watt for wind energy systems purchased by public sector and non-profit entities.  Otherwise, the rebate is still based on 30% of total cost for homeowners and businesses and 50% for governmental and non-profit entities, with a maximum rebate of $30,000.
    2.  Another provision (Section 2.3.3) encourages that the applicants submit a report by a certified wind site assessor for wind projects but does not require that it be submitted.
    3. We request information on installers/developers related to whether they are a minority business in the application.
    4. We also added Appendix B to provide a timeline of the rebate process and to provide a checklist of what to provide with application.
    Applicants from FY 2011 who did not get considered for a rebate and are still interested in a solar or wind rebate this year, must reapply using the new form.  All applicants will be considered on a first come, first serve basis.
    If you have any questions with regards to the new guidelines and application form, please email or call Wayne Hartel.
    Wayne Hartel
    Energy Program Specialist, Illinois Energy Office
    Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity
    500 East Monroe
    Springfield, IL  62701-1643
    Phone: (217) 785-3420
    Fax: (217) 558-2647
  • 09 Sep 2011 4:05 PM | Michelle Hickey

    The IPA’s draft plan proposes to buy all SRECs (solar renewable energy credits) needed to comply with the Illinois Solar Carve Out through a competitive auction designed with large, utility-scale projects in mind.  If past procurements serve as an example, participation requirements will be too complex and transaction costs will be too high for distributed solar developers and owners to participate.  There is no separate procurement program proposed for small and mid-size rooftop and ground mounted systems.  Without a separate procurement program, it is likely that our state’s very aggressive Solar Carve Out (which will require output from about 600 MW of installed solar by 2015) will be met entirely with SRECs from utility-scale solar projects, some located outside of Illinois.

    ELPC strongly encourages you to submit comments on the 2012 Draft Procurement Plan and tell the IPA that Illinois needs a solar procurement program that will drive real expansion in Illinois’ solar industry.   A template is attached to provide some sample language and comments, but unique and personal comments will carry more weight than a standard form letter, so please make sure to modify this so that it reflects your own voice.  Please abstain from using these comments to promote any single project or individual agenda, but focus on the broad policy objective.

    Comments are due next Wednesday, September 14th, at 5:00 pm and should be emailed to the IPA in care of Julie Musselman Oost.  There are public hearings on the Draft Plan on September 9th in Springfield and September 13th in Chicago
  • 02 Sep 2011 5:32 PM | Michelle Hickey
    DCEO Announces RFA for
    Community Solar & Wind Grant and
    Renewable Energy Business Development Grant

    DCEO has just released a Request for Application for the Community Solar and Wind Grant Program.  This RFA is a competitive solicitation, with applications due to DCEO on or before 4:30 p.m. on October 28, 2011. Click here for program guidelines and application forms.  They may be also be accessed from the Illinois Energy Office’s website at

    The focus of the Community Solar and Wind Energy Grant Program is to support the development and implementation of distributed community and commercial-scale solar thermal, solar photovoltaic, and wind energy technologies in Illinois.
    Proposed projects are eligible for grants up to 30 percent of eligible project costs for business entities and 50 percent for local government and non-profit entities.  The maximum grant award is $250,000.  Eligibility is limited to project costs for the purchase and installation of solar and wind generation equipment, and related metering components as appropriate.
    Total Funding for the program is approximately $1 million for Fiscal Year 2012.

    Renewable Energy Business Development Program

    DCEO has just released a Request for Application for the Renewable Energy Business Development Program.  This RFA is a competitive solicitation, with applications due to DCEO on or before 4:30 p.m. on October 28, 2011.  Click here for program guidelines and application forms.  They may also be accessed from the Illinois Energy Office’s website at
    The purpose of this incentive program is  to support development or expansion of renewable energy businesses and component manufacturers. The Program targets projects that develop and expand these manufacturing sectors and corresponding supply chains while improving the economy of the State through new business development.
    The Department will solicit and receive applications through a competitive Request-for-Application process. Proposed projects are eligible for grants up to 50 percent of eligible project cost.  The minimum grant award allowed is $100,000, and the maximum grant award is $500,000.    Eligible expenditures include the purchase and installation of machinery, equipment and new industrial systems, project necessary site improvements, technical or engineering services for process improvements in key functions, and/or the conversion of existing processes.
    Expected total funding for the program for Fiscal Year 2012 is approximately $2 million.
  • 01 Sep 2011 3:58 PM | Michelle Hickey

    Illinois State University will receive $850,000
    to design, populate and maintain a comprehensive national database of utility rates an rate design.

    University of Chicago will receive $1,500,000
    to develop new nanocrystal-based materials for next-generation solar cells.  The nanocrystals will be fabricated by very inexpensive and scalable wet chemistry which will allow combining the advantages of conventional inorganic semiconductors with inexpensive fabrication.

    University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will receive $1,192,250 to develop new materials for contacts used in cadmium-telluride PV cells.  Contacts are used on the front and back of solar cells to allow current to flow to an external circuit.  The new materials will reduce the back-contact barrier to zero, increasing the current flow and thus the efficiency of the PV cell.

    For a full list of awards by state, click here.
  • 01 Sep 2011 3:52 PM | Michelle Hickey
    News Media Contact: (202) 586-4940
    For Immediate Release: Thursday, September 1, 2011
    DOE SunShot Initiative Accelerates Development of Cost-Competitive Solar Technologies
    WASHINGTON, D.C. – Energy Secretary Steven Chu today announced more than $145 million for projects to help shape the next generation of solar energy technologies and ensure that the United States remains a leader in this global market. Sixty-nine projects in 24 states will accelerate research and development to increase efficiency, lower costs and advance cutting-edge technologies. Funded through DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the projects will also improve materials, manufacturing processes and supply chains for a wide range of photovoltaic (PV) solar cells and components of solar energy systems. Some of these investments also support efforts that will shorten the overall timeline from prototype to production and streamline building codes, zoning laws, permitting rules, and business processes for installing solar energy systems.
    “America is in a world race to produce cost-competitive renewable energy that can reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, create manufacturing jobs across the nation, and improve our energy security,” said Secretary Chu. “The projects announced today under DOE’s SunShot Initiative will spur American innovation to help reduce the costs of clean, renewable solar energy and re-establish U.S. global leadership in this fast growing industry.”
    The SunShot Initiative seeks to make solar energy systems more cost-competitive, without long-term subsidies, by reducing the cost of these systems about 75 percent by the end of the decade. The achievement of the SunShot Initiative goals will encourage rapid, widespread adoption of solar energy systems across the United States.
    SunShot is driving innovation in the way solar energy systems are conceived, designed, manufactured, and installed. The awards announced today will target improvements across the research, development, and demonstration pipeline, from next generation technologies 7-10 years away from commercial readiness, to scientific and technological improvements which can be rapidly implemented within 5 years. The programs will create entirely new and more economical approaches to collecting solar energy and tackle fundamental challenges to ramp up use of these renewable energy technologies.
    The six categories of projects announced today are:
    Extreme Balance of System Hardware Cost Reductions – Nine projects to receive $42 million.
    These projects will conduct research and development of new balance of system (BOS) hardware, or solar system components including power inverters and mounting racks but excluding solar panels or cells, that is inexpensive, safe, and highly reliable. BOS accounts for more than 40 percent of the total installed cost of solar energy systems and represents a major opportunity to achieve significant cost reductions.
    Foundational Program to Advance Cell Efficiency – Eighteen projects to receive $35.8 million.
    Combining both the technical and funding resources of U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation, this joint program will support research that aims to eliminate the significant gap between the efficiencies of prototype cells achieved in the laboratory and the efficiencies of cells produced on manufacturing lines. The projects under this award address cost and efficiency barriers, advance fundamental PV cell research, and develop materials and processes for more efficient, cost-effective photovoltaic cells.

    Solar Energy Grid Integration Systems: Advanced Concepts – Eight projects to receive $25.9 million.
    These projects will develop electronics and build smarter, more interactive systems and components so that solar energy can be integrated into the electric power distribution and transmission grid at higher levels. These technologies will help advance a smart grid that will handle two-way flows of power and communication, in contrast to the one-way power flow and limited communication that exists today.
    Transformational PV Science and Technology: Next Generation Photovoltaics II – Twenty-three projects to receive $22.2 million.
    These awards will fund applied research into technologies that greatly increase efficiency, lower costs, create secure and sustainable supply chains and perform more reliably than the current PV technologies. Investing in new classes of photovoltaic technology feeds the industry with the new innovations it will need to compete in the future and will help achieve the goals of the Sunshot Initiative.
    Reducing Market Barriers and Non-Hardware Balance of System Costs – Seven projects to receive $13.6 million.
    These awards will provide funding to create tools and develop methods to reduce the cost of non-hardware components for installed solar energy systems. These projects will develop software design tools and databases that can be used by local jurisdictions and installers, and tools to streamline building codes, zoning laws, permitting rules, and business processes for installing solar systems.
    SunShot Incubator – Four projects to receive $5.8 million.
    These projects will fund two different tiers of transformational projects. The first accelerates development of new technologies from concept to commercial viability. The second level of funding supports efforts that shorten the overall timeline from laboratory scale development to pilot line manufacture. The SunShot Incubator Program is an expansion of DOE's successful PV Technology Incubator Program, launched in 2007, which to date has funded $60 million in projects that have been leveraged into $1.3 billion in private investment.
    For a full list of award by project category, visit HERE.

    For a full list of awards by state, visit HERE.
    DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy invests in clean energy technologies that strengthen the economy, protect the environment, and reduce America's dependence on foreign oil. Learn more about the SunShot Initiative and DOE's efforts to expand safe, readily available, and inexpensive solar energy across the nation by the end of the decade.

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