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Chicago Pioneers With Solar Projects

Chicago is leading in solar energy with the nation’s largest urban solar plant. Exelon Corp’s South Side West Pullman neighborhood has 32,000 panels on 40 acres that generate 10 megawatts of clean energy. Building the initial solar plant put a lot abandoned for 30 years back on the city’s tax rolls, employed local welders, and powered 1,500 local homes. Their efforts remain a bright beacon of hope for other Illinois companies looking to make the switch to solar.

Let’s take a look at what else is happening in sunny Chicago:

  • In June of 2010, Illinois lawmakers passed legislation doubling the state’s solar power supply each year and creating 5,000 green jobs by 2014.

  • Three Illinois solar developers reported large-scale projects of 10 to 20 megawatts.

  • Illinois offers 30 percent rebates on solar system installation for residential or corporate use and 50 percent rebates for governmental and nonprofit corporations (up to $50k). This is in addition to the 30 percent federal tax credits and grants.

  • An apprentice school in Alsip trains 200 electricians a year to work on solar projects.

  • Homeowners like Jim Camasto invested $20,000 on a solar thermal and photovoltaic roof system, which drops gas usage more than 50 percent and electric usage 70 percent. He sells his extra power back to the grid and sells renewable energy credits to investors with returns of 3 to 4 percent each year.

Even though Illinois isn’t as ideal a market as Florida or California, the state still sees more sunny days than Germany or Japan – the world’s two leading solar power markets.

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