On a typical Chicago area winter day, the temperature is frigid but the sun is shining. Did you know that to produce solar-powered electricity it does not matter if the temperature is frigid? It only matters whether the sun is shining. Actually, the sun does not even have to be shining to produce some solar power. Clouds diminish but do not preclude solar electricity.
With today’s technology, people everywhere, homes, condos, rentals, can participate in acquiring solar-powered electricity. People fortunate enough to have suitable homes can either purchase or lease panels for their roofs. However, community solar programs are becoming commonplace for those who either cannot or choose not to put solar panels on their roofs.
To participate in a community solar program, consumers contract with a company to purchase solar electricity. That company has large scale panel systems, typically a solar farm in a rural area. They then contract with a consumer to purchase their electricity. The consumer agrees to a contract for purchasing solar power but is still hooked to the Commonwealth Edison grid. The consumer receives two separate electricity bills – one from the solar company in accordance with their contract; the other from Commonwealth Edison for connection to the grid and whatever overuse the consumer may have accrued. The electricity produced by the solar farm is added to the Commonwealth Edison grid on behalf of the consumer. The consumer can then know that he or she contributed to clean, carbon-free electricity at a less expensive cost.
There are many ways to acquire community solar. Northbrook has joined the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus which contracts with MC Squared Energy Services; consumers add their name to a registration list, with no cost and no commitment, and can save up to 20% on their electricity bill. There are other choices, as well, for community solar programs. The Citizens Utility Board, or CUB, has a list of recommended providers. Check out their website at http://www.citizensutilityboard.org/solar-in-the-community/ for more information.
CUB recommends asking the following questions: How long is the contract term? Does the company charge a fee if you exit the deal early? What if you move? How will you pay for your subscription? What is the per kilowatt hour rate? Will that rate increase during the term of the contract? How much money will you save?
The Sierra Club, in conjunction with CUB, will be presenting two webinars on Community Solar. You can register for the free program on Jan. 21 at 5:30 by going to bit.ly/communitysolarjan21. You can register for the free program on Feb. 12 at noon by going to bit.ly/communitysolarfeb12.
Switching to solar-powered electricity is an easy way to help Northbrook reduce its carbon footprint and reach goals set by the sustainability study action plan. It reduces fossil fuel energy, stimulates green energy jobs and economics, and saves consumers utility dollars. It is a win/win proposition for all involved. Whether our electric bills increase because of short winter days or air-conditioned summer days, wouldn’t you like to reduce both your cost and your carbon footprint. Of course, you do!