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  • 16 Jul 2021 2:42 PM | Anonymous

    Leading solar companies unite with state solar advocates to advance a new automated permitting process to cut the cost of solar

    NREL’s SolarAPP+ online tool helps local officials expedite approval of rooftop and projects

    Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Energy announced the launch of a new online permitting platform to accelerate the approval of solar projects while maintaining the integrity of the permitting process. SolarAPP+ was developed and built by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in consultation with a broad range of experts from businesses, trade groups, local governments, researchers, and code and safety organizations. It will cut the time and expense of going solar in the U.S., where the cost of installation is 2-3 times greater than in countries like Germany, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

    With today’s announcement SolarAPP+ is now being made available as a solution to cities across the country, to help jurisdictions process solar installations more efficiently and with a standardized high level of quality and safety.  This efficiency gain and cost reduction is seen as critical for American energy consumers to achieve the rapid growth in solar adoption targeted by the administration.

    Solar customers will save money. Solar installers will have more clarity about the process, get more projects done and contribute more to local economies. Local officials will be able to rely on quality assurance processes built into the online application tool with input from code and safety experts at organizations like Underwriters Laboratories (UL), the International Code Council (ICC) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

    It is now time to support rapid adoption of SolarAPP+ by cities across the country.  To support this goal, a group of solar companies, state solar energy associations, clean energy advocates, and environmental organizations have launched The SolarAPP+ Campaign to raise awareness about SolarAPP+ and promote its adoption. The project is motivated by national data showing that local governments with instant online permitting for rooftop solar process 5-14x more volume than jurisdictions with traditional permit processing. The SolarAPP+ Campaign is supporting state solar associations’ advocacy with a goal of getting over 100 jurisdictions to adopt the new tool  by next summer.  

    “By adopting SolarAPP+, cities can ramp up more solar in their communities, while improving the quality and safety of their permitting process. It will lead to more happy solar customers, less pollution, more jobs, and more local economic benefits,” said Andrew Birch and Anne Hoskins, Co-Chairs of the SolarAPP+ Campaign.  “We’re excited to work with local officials and other stakeholders to advance the benefits of this new tool.”

    For more information on the campaign and its partners, go to SolarAPPCampaign.org

    Info for state and local officials- SolarAPP+ for Jurisdictions

    Info for installers - SolarAPP+ - Installers

    Media Contacts

    John Ordona, OpenSolar, john@opensolar.com

    Bartlett Jackson, Sunrun, bartlett.jackson@sunrun.com

    Anson Moran

    IL SolarAPP Outreach Coordinator

    M (714) 331-2280

  • 08 Oct 2020 12:50 PM | Anonymous

    On March 20, 2020, in light of the growing COVID-19 pandemic and its expected impacts in Illinois, the Illinois Power Agency adopted the following emergency amendment to its Adjustable Block Program and Illinois Solar for All Program Marketing Guidelines:

    In-person marketing and solicitation: Given the public health emergency posed by the COVID-19 virus, in-person marketing or solicitation of photovoltaic system sales, installations, or financing; in-person marketing or solicitation of community solar subscriptions; or similar in-person solar marketing or solicitation activity are prohibited.

    Clarifications to this prohibition were offered on May 19, 2020, along with additional guidance and updates on June 4, 2020June 30, 2020, and August 5, 2020.

    This update confirms that the IPA’s prohibition of door-to-door sales and solicitation remains in place while offering additional clarifications regarding the scope of this prohibition.

    Regarding the basis for the IPA’s door-to-door sales prohibition, the statewide COVID-19 positivity rate (the percentage of positive tests across total tests given) remains in the range of 3.5%. That positivity rate remains well above its lowest points from June and has showed little decline across the summer months, and the daily totals for both confirmed cases and fatalities in Illinois remain a significant public health concern. As Illinois moves into cooler fall weather with more time spent indoors, efforts should be made to protect against a recurrent spike in COVID-19 transmission through curbing unnecessary—and especially unwanted—person-to-person contact.

    The IPA believes that transactions benefitting from public funding should operate in the public interest. Thus, in the interest of protecting public health, door-to-door sales remains a prohibited sales channel under solar incentive programs administered by the IPA (the Adjustable Block Program and Illinois Solar for All Program) and entities found violating this prohibition may be suspended from program participation.

    CLARIFICATIONS

    A reiteration of prior-offered clarification is provided below:

    Passive forms of in-person marketing and solicitation – such as tabling at retail stores or events, or door-to-door distribution of marketing materials such as advertising flyers – are no longer prohibited. While these activities could increase the likelihood of unnecessary person-to-person interactions, such an increase would be small or already agreed-to through participation in existing commercial channels. Any permitted door-to-door distribution of marketing materials must consist only of distribution of materials (with no notification—such as door knocking or ringing of a doorbell—allowed as part of that distribution) and not include any other marketing or solicitation activities, including in-person sales or solicitation, until such time as the potential customer has received and read those materials and initiated an entirely separate follow-up conversation.

    Additionally, in-person meetings with prospective or existing customers (such as a follow-up to an online or phone discussion) are not prohibited so long as expressly agreed to by that customer. The IPA strongly discourages any high-pressure tactics used to secure such meetings, however, and requests that all Approved Vendors, designees, agents, and subcontractors strongly consider whether virtual meetings, e-signatures, or other telecommunication practices can instead be utilized. Approved Vendors, designees, agents, and subcontractors must respect the wishes of existing or prospective customers who do not wish to meet in-person.

    In addition to this prior-issued guidance the IPA offers the following additional clarifications:

    • This prohibition applies both to business-to-business sales in addition to sales to Illinois residents.
    • This prohibition applies to any size of system or subscription for photovoltaic systems benefitting from incentive funding through program participation.
    • While the term “door-to-door” is used in describing this prohibition, this prohibition applies to any attempts to initiate person-to-person contact without that person’s or business’s prior acquiescence, unless part of the tabling exception outlined above. Thus, approaching an individual on their property, on the street, or otherwise without their prior express consent to such person-to-person contact may constitute a violation.
    • Guidance offered by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (“DCEO”) regarding the permissibility of door-to-door sales during Phase 4 of the state’s Restore Illinois Plan addresses only whether such practices would run afoul of the Restore Illinois Plan, and does not address the requirements applicable to qualifying for state-administered incentive funding under the IPA’s programs.
    • Likewise, the removal of prohibitions on door-to-door solicitations by local governments does not impact program permissibility of door-to-door marketing for transactions funded through the IPA’s solar incentive programs in those areas.

    For the foregoing reasons and those offered in its prior updates, the Agency believes this would be an inappropriate time to start permitting in-person interactions initiated without a customer, homeowner, or business owner’s express permission. This prohibition will remain in effect until lifted by the IPA through a formal announcement, although the IPA will endeavor to continue providing updates. Additionally, prior-issued guidance regarding best practices remains in effect.

    Should you have questions about whether specific practices are permitted, please contact IPA Chief Legal Counsel Brian Granahan at Brian.Granahan@Illinois.gov.

  • 26 Aug 2020 12:17 PM | Anonymous

    Annual event adapts, showcasing 30 solar homes and businesses across Illinois through socially distant, digital format

    10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26

    Thousands of Illinois residents will get an up-close virtual look at the world’s fastest growing source of energy with over 30 solar homes and businesses across the state participating in this year’s Illinois Solar Tour. The Solar Tour, hosted by the Illinois Solar Education Association (ISEA), is a free experience, including live virtual events on Saturday, Sept. 26. The Tour allows the public to view real-life examples of nearby businesses and residents who have decided to cut their utility bills by going solar.

    Structured in past years as a statewide series of open houses, the Tour has been reimagined for a socially distanced, all-digital audience. Photos and videos of solar homes and businesses in communities throughout the state are available now on the Tour website, where visitors can also sign up for the live Zoom tours scheduled for 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26. With 10 options available, the tours will offer the public a chance to engage and ask questions of solar owners and other enthusiasts.

    The virtual tours are expected to give thousands of people across Illinois a better understanding of renewable energy. Participants will gain valuable insight on the costs, processes, as well as the economic and environmental benefits of going solar. Illinois is in the middle of a solar energy boom thanks to the implementation of new legislation, making the Tour a great way to learn about the opportunities the technology affords.

    Please visit the Tour’s website to find sites to explore near you: www.illinoissolar.org/Illinois-Solar-Tour

    Participating Towns and Cities in the Tour include but are not limited to:

    Arlington Heights, Batavia, Brookfield, Buffalo Grove, Carol Stream, Cary, Caseyville, Champaign, Chicago, Deer Park, Elmhurst, Evanston, Forest Park, Glen Carbon, Glen Ellyn, Goreville, Grayslake, Highland Park, Naperville, Northbrook, Palatine, Plainfield, Riverside, Schaumburg, Troy, West Chicago, Wheaton, Wilmette, Woodridge, Woodstock

    About the Illinois Solar Education Association (ISEA)

    ISEA is two sister non-profit organizations - the Illinois Solar Energy Association and the Illinois Solar Education Association - that promote the widespread application of solar and other forms of renewable energy through our mission of advocacy and education.

    Founded in 1975 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit, the organization was focused on public education for the majority of its history. In the last decade, ISEA expanded its efforts to include working to ensure stable policies and regulations for solar development in Illinois. In order to do this work, ISEA founded its sister 501(c)(6) nonprofit trade organization.

    The Illinois Solar Education Association is the Illinois chapter of the American Solar Energy Society, and is the state resource for renewable energy-related policy developments, educational classes, events, news, and access to local renewable energy businesses. www.illinoissolar.org

     

    ###


  • 05 Aug 2020 12:17 PM | Anonymous

    The IPA’s Revised Long-Term Plan, published by the IPA on April 20, 2020, contains several changes to Part I and Part II of the ABP project application. The Program Administrator has implemented these changes which are now live. The following are details regarding each change:

    Part I Changes

    • Providing a shading study is no longer a required upload for any application. (Upload removed from Part I)
    • Language is added to the application noting that an Interconnection Agreement (IA), required for systems >25 kW AC, must be signed by both the interconnection customer and the interconnecting utility. The IA must be dated on or prior to the date of submission of the application. (Clarification of existing Part I requirement)
    • Ground-mounted systems larger than 250 kW AC must provide a land use permit from the AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction). If a land use permit is not applicable, the Approved Vendor must provide written confirmation from the AHJ that no permit is required. (New Part I upload)
    • Non-ministerial permits, other than the land use permit specified above for systems larger than 250 kW AC, are no longer required and have been removed from the Part I application. For those Approved Vendors and Designees that use the application CSV upload feature, non-ministerial permits have been made optional in the CSV, enabling you to continue to use the same CSV template without issue. (Uploads removed from Part I)

    Part II Changes

    • The ICC Docket Number for the Certification of the DG Installer who is the installer of record is now required. (New required information in Part II)
    • For systems that include a battery, a detailed schematic must be provided showing that either only solar-generated power can be used to charge the battery or that the battery’s output does not run through the meter used to measure solar output. (New Part II upload)

    Changes that apply to both Part I and Part II

    • Bifacial panels are now an option in the application. (New option for both Part I and Part II)

    Should you have questions about any of these changes, please contact the Program Administrator at admin@illinoisabp.com.

  • 28 Jul 2020 5:14 PM | Anonymous

    The Illinois Power Agency is seeking feedback on the first draft of the refreshed Adjustable Block Program REC contract with comments due by August 14, 2020. The draft REC contract, a comparison of the draft REC contract and the current REC Contract, and a Request for Stakeholder Comments document can be found at www.illinoisabp.com/rec-contract. Please see the Request for Stakeholder Comments for additional background and information, and details on two virtual workshops scheduled for July 31, 2020 and August 7, 2020, both at 12:00 PM Central Standard Time.

    This announcement is also posted here on the Adjustable Block Program website.

  • 07 Jul 2020 3:23 PM | Anonymous

    The Illinois Power Agency has communicated information on how to file the first annual Approved Vendor (AV) reports. Please note that this filing, which will be used to verify REC delivery, is required of all AVs by Wednesday, July 15th.  A 90 day cure period is afforded to ensure that all information submitted is correct, but the initial report date is not negotiable.

    Please read the IPA announcement here.

    In addition, the IPA communicates that all solar companies will be required to report "information related to ongoing program participation, including use of graduates of job training programs and other information related to increasing the diversity of the solar workforce.

    The last item above is currently the topic of a stakeholder process; as a result, job training information likely will be collected separately from the rest of the annual report data after the stakeholder comment process concludes.”

    Approved Vendors will be reaching out to their designees to collect this important information on the industry’s work to increase diversity in the workforce once this portion of the AV report has been finalized. 

  • 01 Jul 2020 4:09 PM | Anonymous

    On March 20, 2020, in light of the growing COVID-19 pandemic and its expected impacts in Illinois, the Illinois Power Agency adopted the following emergency amendment to its Adjustable Block Program and Illinois Solar for All Program Marketing Guidelines:

    In-person marketing and solicitation: Given the public health emergency posed by the COVID-19 virus, in-person marketing or solicitation of photovoltaic system sales, installations, or financing; in-person marketing or solicitation of community solar subscriptions; or similar in-person solar marketing or solicitation activity are prohibited. 

    Clarifications to these requirements were offered on May 18, 2020, along with additional guidance on June 4, 2020.

    This update confirms that the IPA’s prohibition of door-to-door sales and solicitation remains in place. Although the state has progressed to Phase 4 (out of 5) of the Restore Illinois Reopening Plan, Governor JB Pritzker’s COVID-19-related disaster proclamation was again extended for 30 days on June 26, 2020, recognizing that COVID-19 remains a significant public health risk to Illinois residents. The Illinois Commerce Commission’s emergency order prohibiting door to door sales by Alternative Retail Electric Suppliers and Alternative Gas Suppliers also remains in place. As identified COVID-19 cases have also risen nationally, the Agency believes this would be an inappropriate time to start permitting in-person interactions initiated without a customer, homeowner, or business owner’s express permission.

    Prior-issued guidance regarding best practices and permitted activities remains in effect. Should you have questions about whether specific practices are permitted, please contact IPA Chief Legal Counsel Brian Granahan at Brian.Granahan@Illinois.gov.

  • 24 Jun 2020 3:59 PM | Anonymous

    The deadline for submitting comments on the Request for Feedback for Job Training and Solar Workforce Diversity reporting requirements has been extended to Thursday, July 2, 2020. Please submit comments to admin@illinoisabp.com.

    As part of this comment process, the Agency also requests that stakeholders provide comments on reasonable timelines and compliance periods for the submittal of diversity and job training information.

    Finally, the opening of the Approved Vendor Annual Report portal is now planned for July 1, 2020 (as opposed to the June 22, 2020 date from the Request for Comments). As noted in the Request for Feedback, Annual Reports are due on July 15, 2020, but will not initially contain spaces for entry of diversity and job training information. Those categories will be added upon completion of this stakeholder feedback process.

  • 04 Jun 2020 2:40 PM | Anonymous

    On March 20, 2020, in light of the growing COVID-19 pandemic and its expected impacts in Illinois, the Illinois Power Agency adopted the following emergency amendment to its Adjustable Block Program and Illinois Solar for All Program Marketing Guidelines:

    In-person marketing and solicitation: Given the public health emergency posed by the COVID-19 virus, in-person marketing or solicitation of photovoltaic system sales, installations, or financing; in-person marketing or solicitation of community solar subscriptions; or similar in-person solar marketing or solicitation activity are prohibited. 

    Clarifications to these requirements were offered on May 18, 2020, along with a statement that further guidance would be offered during the first week of June.  This communication offers that guidance.

    While all four regions of the state successfully achieved Phase 3 (out of 5) of the State of Illinois’s Restore Illinois Reopening Plan on May 29th—thus demonstrating that COVID-19 infection rates, hospitalizations, and ICU capacity remain stable or are decreasing—the IPA does not believe that a full elimination of its in-person marketing and solicitation prohibition is warranted.

    As outlined most recently in Governor J.B. Pritzker’s May 29, 2020 disaster proclamation, COVID-19 remains a significant public health threat to Illinois residents.  By way of example, the two days prior to this June 4, 2020 announcement featured official totals of over 200 new COVID-19-related fatalities and over 2500 new positive cases in Illinois.  While hospitalization rates, fatalities, and positive testing rates have recently been declining from peak levels, they remain at levels significant enough to continue to constitute a public health emergency across Illinois.

    Although Phase 3 of the Restore Illinois Plan permits gatherings of 10 people or fewer, those gatherings presumably involve individuals acquiescing to person-to-person interactions.  This is not the case for door-to-door sales and solicitation.  An at-risk individual may believe that a visitor to his or her residence is delivering groceries, pharmaceutical drugs, or other true necessities rather than soliciting a product that the individual does not need.  To prevent these and other unwanted interactions during an ongoing pandemic, and to ensure that Illinois residents and business have positive experiences under a ratepayer-funded incentive program, the IPA believes that while certain aspects of its restrictions should be loosened, door-to-door sales and solicitation will remain prohibited. (The Agency notes that the Illinois Commerce Commission’s emergency order prohibiting door to door sales by Alternative Retail Electric Suppliers and Alternative Gas Suppliers also remains in place.)

    The Illinois Power Agency will revisit this decision in approximately two to three weeks’ time.  Absent any new announcements from the Agency, this prohibition will remain in place.

    PERMITTED ACTIVITIES

    In light of the progress that has been made to date, one prior clarification has been revisited.  Passive forms of in-person marketing and solicitation – such as tabling at retail stores or events, or door-to-door distribution of marketing materials such as advertising flyers – are no longer prohibited.  While these activities could increase the likelihood of unnecessary person-to-person interactions, such an increase would be small or already agreed-to through participation in existing commercial channels.  Any permitted door-to-door distribution of marketing materials must consist only of distribution of materials (with no notification—such as door knocking or ringing of a doorbell—allowed) and not include any other marketing or solicitation activities, including in-person sales or solicitation, until such time as the potential customer has received and read those materials and initiated an entirely separate follow-up conversation.

    Additionally, in-person meetings with prospective or existing customers (such as a follow-up to an online or phone discussion) are not prohibited so long as expressly agreed to by that customer.  The IPA strongly discourages any high-pressure tactics used to secure such meetings, however, and requests that all Approved Vendors, designees, agents, and subcontractors strongly consider whether virtual meetings, e-signatures, or other telecommunication practices can instead be utilized.  Approved Vendors, designees, agents, and subcontractors must respect the wishes of existing or prospective customers who do not wish to meet in-person.

    The IPA and its Program Administrators are taking steps to cross-check project applications and disclosure forms received during this in-person sales and marketing prohibition through follow-up with select customers.  These checks are being made to ensure that prohibited sales and solicitation practices are not in fact being utilized.

    Should you have questions about whether specific other sales practices are permitted, please contact IPA Chief Legal Counsel Brian Granahan at Brian.Granahan@Illinois.gov.  To the extent not expressly addressed above or otherwise clear, whether a sales practice is permitted under the IPA’s emergency COVID-19-related marketing guidelines will generally depend on whether a) the sales activity could result in person-to-person interactions without the consent of the prospective customer and b) whether a viable alternative avoiding person-to-person interaction can be identified.

    BEST PRACTICES

    In conducting permitted sales and solicitation activity, the IPA strongly encourages that certain best practices be adopted.

    • First, as noted above, person-to-person interactions should be minimized. If business can instead be conducted through phone, email, Zoom chats, utilizing e-signatures, or otherwise using mediums non-reliant on person-to-person interactions, public health interests as served by utilizing those measures.
    • Second, even under Phase 3 of the Governor J.B. Pritzker’s Restore Illinois Plan, certain best practices continue to be required. For example, utilizing face coverings in public still stands as a requirement under Phase 3 just as it was under Phase 2.  And while certain industries can begin returning to workplaces, social distancing and proper sanitization practices are required to be put in place.  The IPA believes these practices should likewise be required for any solar sales and solicitation practices involving any in-person interactions, and strongly encourages Approved Vendors to ensure that any sales agents or other individuals interfacing with customers are specifically trained in how to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19.
    • Third, even if certain practices are not prohibited under the requirements issued by the IPA, Approved Vendors, designees, subcontractors, and agents should understand and operate mindful of any local requirements (some of which may be stricter than IPA requirements).

    OFFICE REOPENINGS

    Nothing in the IPA’s in-person marketing and solicitation prohibition is intended to address whether corporate, satellite, or other offices of an Approved Vendor, designee, subcontractor, or agent may reopen.  The IPA understands those decisions to be governed by the Governor’s five-phase Restore Illinois Plan and, once permitted by state and local authorities, subject to the determinations of that company’s leadership.

  • 19 May 2020 3:04 PM | Anonymous

    The Illinois Power Agency provides the following communication as an update and clarification of its prohibition on in-person marketing and solicitation issued on March 20, 2020.

    At present, the IPA’s emergency revisions to its marketing guidelines prohibiting in-person marketing and solicitation remain in effect until further notice. In responding to questions about when that prohibition may be lifted, the IPA has offered the following statement:

    Given the unknown trajectory of COVID-19 and by when social distancing measures can safely be eased, the Illinois Power Agency cannot offer an estimate for by when person-to-person solar solicitations will be once again allowed under the Adjustable Block Program or the Illinois Solar for All Program. However, the Agency’s approach is likely to track the approach taken by the Illinois Commerce Commission and other state public utility commissions regarding their in-person solicitation prohibitions applicable to retail electric supply products. In addition, the Agency will also be closely monitoring the Governor’s Executive Orders, disaster declaration, and stay-at-home orders before making any determination.

    The IPA understands that some (and possibly all) regions of Illinois may reach Phase 3 in Governor J.B. Pritzker’s Restore Illinois Reopening Plan on May 29th. While a change to a region’s status will not necessarily determine whether the IPA’s in-person marketing and solicitation prohibition remains in place for that region, the IPA plans to assess the basis for its prohibition at that time and hopes to offer further guidance during the first week of June. Possible changes could include relaxation of prohibitions for certain regions or for select types of activities, but no determinations have yet been made, nor will be made, until that time.

    Over the past two months, the IPA has received questions about the scope of the current prohibitions; clarifications offered are memorialized below.

    • Project development work (such as system installation) is not prohibited under the IPA’s revised marketing guidelines. However, all Approved Vendors should operate mindful of this ongoing public health emergency and the Governor’s Executive Orders. Additionally, under no circumstances should installation activity proceed over the objections of the customer or property owner.
    • More passive forms of in-person marketing and solicitation – such as tabling at retail stores or events, or door-to-door distribution of marketing materials such as advertising flyers – are prohibited. The IPA’s objective is to reduce unnecessary person-to-person contact in connection with the marketing of photovoltaic systems or community solar subscriptions, and these activities increase the likelihood of unnecessary person-to-person interactions.

    Lastly, should you have any questions about the scope of this prohibition, please contact the IPA’s Chief Legal Counsel at Brian.Granahan@Illinois.gov.

    We look forward to providing you with additional guidance in approximately two weeks’ time.

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