Solar Energy on the Rise in Naperville

In 2019 and 2020, Naperville expanded its Renewable Energy Program to provide more incentives to residential and commercial customers who go green.

Those moves have resulted in massive growth in solar energy installations across town.

“We’re seeing as of March there were 396 residential solar installations across the city and 19 commercial solar installations across the city,” said Naperville Electric Utility Director Brian Groth. “We would attribute a lot of that growth in the last year – little more than a year – to the changes in the Renewable Energy Program.”

Solar Energy Incentives

The rebate program offers up to $3,000 in incentives for residential customers and $50,000 for commercial customers. Groth said every installation is different, so it’s difficult to say when the savings catch up to the upfront costs, but the rebate is making it much more palatable.

“I’ve heard on the average of four to five or six years but the rebates we’ve been offering have driven that down and we’ve heard that from residents,” said Groth.

Massive Increase

Residential installations have increased 866% from 2018, when there were just 41 across the city.

While commercial installations have been more stagnant, some are taking advantage. For one, North Central College maxed out its $50,000 rebate for its largest solar project – the grid on top of the Residence Hall/Recreation Center.

“North Central College has openly embraced solar. We have four projects on campus,” said the college’s Sustainability Coordinator Kaitlin Ballard.

Environmental Impacts

The college also keeps track of the environmental impact of the 1,632 panels that make up that project.

“This system at Res/Rec is a 538 kilowatt system and produces over 700,000 kilowatt hours annually,” she said. “There’s a link on our website where you can click and it will show you right now what the system is producing. And then to the side of that it gives an estimate per month what the equivalency is in trees planted, gallons of gas, gallons of water, or you can look at the lifetime of the system.”

The city itself has installed panels on top of three city buildings as well as at the Springbrook Water Reclamation Facility. There aren’t any major solar projects planned for the near future, but they’re focusing on promoting the benefits of residential and commercial installations.

“Cleaner energy, cost savings on your utility bill, as well as the ability to generate your own electricity on your roof,” listed Groth. “I think as we see batteries take off and become a bit more affordable and have a longer lifespan, I think that folks will have an easier time getting to net-zero or harness some of that energy that they generate during the daylight hours and use it over the evening hours.”

Naperville News 17’s Casey Krajewski reports.

 

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