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The Cook County Department of Environmental Control will receive a federal cooperative award of $1.2 million to help bring “community shared” solar power in the region.

The “Solar Market Pathways” project was one of 15 awarded nationally as part of the U.S Department of Energy SunShot Initiative. Application for the cooperative agreement was made in coordination with the City of Chicago.

Additional partners include nonprofits Elevate Energy and the Environmental Law and Policy Center, and technical consultant West Monroe Partners. ComEd will also be a member of the project’s Steering Committee.

Community shared solar is a solar-electric system that provides power and/or financial benefit to multiple community members, expanding access to solar power for renters, condominium owners, those with shaded roofs and those who choose not to install a residential system on their home for financial or other reasons.

The award will fund efforts over the next two-plus years to identify and establish models for community solar and eliminate barriers to implementing such projects. The Solar Market Pathways program will expand access to solar power for Chicago-area residents, building on the City and County collaboration on the Solar Chicago program, a partnership to make solar more affordable for homeowners.

“While we have already had significant success on energy efficiency, the next step has to be increasing renewable energy,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “Community solar is an exciting concept that, in addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, can also provide economic savings to County residents. My Sustainability Advisory Council recommended that the County help all of its communities become more sustainable, and this project will open up the benefits of solar to wider groups of the population that otherwise would not be able to afford it.”

“This funding will build on Chicago’s successful renewable energy programs like Chicago Solar Express and Solar Chicago that have made installing solar easier, cheaper and faster than ever,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel.  “With this award, the City and County will pilot new community solar programs that will help even more residents across our region access renewable energy – reducing pollution, creating jobs and saving money.”

Other organizations that are supporting and have agreed to assist with the project include:  Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation, Chicago Housing Authority, Cook County Land Bank Development Authority, South Suburban Land Bank Authority, Chicago Infrastructure Trust, Chicago Public Schools, Housing Authority of Cook County, Illinois Power Authority, as well as Johnson Controls and NORESCO, both of which are energy savings companies.

The goal of this initiative is to provide at least 30,000 people in Cook County who would not otherwise be able to benefit from solar energy with access within the next eight years.

The project will:

–          Inventory the current community solar marketplace.
–          Identify the potential market for community solar (suitable available sites/supply, and customer base/demand).
–          Analyze the economics of different ownership structures (such as independent, private entity, utility-sponsored, or  group of subscribers).
–          Identify the structural and policy barriers to community solar and propose approaches to eliminate those barriers.
–          Detail five-to-seven pilot projects to determine what it would take to move them to implementation and create models that could be replicated and used across the region.
–          Disseminate lessons learned from the pilots so other regional projects can succeed.

The U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative is a collaborative national effort that aggressively drives innovation to make solar energy fully cost-competitive with traditional energy sources before the end of the decade. Through SunShot, the Energy Department supports efforts by private companies, universities, and national laboratories to drive down the cost of solar electricity.

Additional information about the Award is available here:

U.S. Department of Energy Announcement 

White House Announcement