Wilmette residents who’d like to let the sun provide some or all of their energy needs may benefit from a new purchasing program that lets them purchase rooftop solar panel installation at discounts of up to 25 percent off going rates.
They can learn about the program at a special information meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Aug. 20 at Wilmette Village Hall, 1200 Wilmette Ave., Wilmette community development director John Adler said July 29.
Wilmette is one of only four suburban Chicago communities – and the only community on the North Shore – taking part with the city of Chicago in the Solar Chicago discount purchase program.
The discount program is underwritten by a World Wildlife Fund grant and done in cooperation with the California-based Vote Solar and other pro-solar organizations.
The WWF worked with the Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center to administer the program locally; it got underway this spring, ELPC legislative co-director Sarah Wochos said July 25.
The concept behind Solar Chicago is simple – if enough people take part, the customer pool for solar providers will be large enough not only to cover expenses, but to offer installation prices up to 25 percent lower than regular installation costs.
Wochos said Chicago reached out to Cook County officials this past spring, looking for suburban communities to add to the program. The county focused on towns with what Wochos called “a willingness to have a good permitting process for solar installation.”
Wilmette fit that bill, along with Oak Park, Franklin Park and Hanover Park, she said.
Adler said Wilmette’s zoning ordinance sets out the rules for solar and wind power equipment installation. On July 21, he told members of the village’s environmental and energy commission that his department will work with program organizers, “to figure out what other communities have done on things like permitting, cost, and review time,” for solar installations.
“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity and I certainly hope that people who are interested in solar power attend and think about taking advantage of this,” said Chris Dunn, who chairs the Wilmette Environmental and Energy Commission.
There are two relevant deadlines for homeowners who are considering taking part in Solar Chicago.
First, they must apply by Sept. 30 to take part in the program. Participants thus buy solar power at $3.49 a watt – meaning that a typical 3-kilowatt solar installations can be purchased for just under $10,400; a federal investment tax credit could lower that by another 30 percent.
Participants must then sign a contract with one of the participating solar contractors by Oct. 31.
Any Chicago area resident can take part in the Solar Chicago program, Wochos emphasized, although they won’t be eligible for the discount. Prices for people outside the discount-eligible communities will still benefit from being part of a bulk purchasing program, she said.
Wochos said Solar Chicago is getting good marks from consumers taking advantage of the discount; 923 people have signed up so far, including 102 customers from the participating suburban communities.
“We’ve had a great response from those communities, and of course we’re looking for even more people to sign up,” she said.
To learn more about the information meeting, contact the village community development department at 847-853-7550.
To learn more about Solar Chicago, request a free solar consultation, or to sign up for the program, visit www.mygroupenergy.com/grou/solarchicago.