Southern Illinois Community Solar Project Becomes the First in the Region

Downstate Illinois has received its first community solar project as part of the 2017 Future Energy Jobs Act. Summit Ridge Energy, a Virginia-based energy company, bid on the rights to sell clean energy credits for 18 new southern Illinois community solar projects in downstate Ameren and an additional 23 in northern Illinois. For the entirety of its projects, Summit Ridge has registered upwards of 8,480 customers to partake in the new installations.

Ameren’s downstate project is just the first of 18 southern Illinois community solar projects expected to be constructed. According to Summit Ridge, when all 18 of the projects are completed and operational, their subscribers will save a collective total of $750,000 per year. This is all from a $300 million investment made by Summit Ridge, which helped increase the total grid capacity an additional 100 megawatts.

Not only did the southern Illinois community solar project come with benefits for homeowners, it also added jobs to the region. To complete the Ameren project, Summit added more than 1,200 construction jobs. The new project started as part of the Future Energy Jobs Act, which was passed in 2017 and provided credits to solar developers. After the act was approved, energy companies began to show interest in developing community solar installations. Some proposals were for as much as 2-megawatts.

To choose the projects to be approved, a lottery was implemented. Of the 39 applications submitted by Summit Ridge, six were chosen. However, the energy company started to acquire additional projects from developers that entered the lottery. Since the initial lottery pull, Summit Ridge has gained an additional 30 pending projects.

While it was able to officially complete the first downstate project, Summit Ridge has 33 more to complete. They are, though, on the back burner while the state agrees upon possible legislation that will add funding for more community solar program credits. According to the principal of Midwest development for Summit Ridge, Mark Raeder, the delay in funding and waiting for state legislation will have a negative impact on the community solar industry.

Summit Ridge is currently managing the Ameren community solar project and will handle additional installations it completes.

Ameren Community Solar Project is Activated in Fulton County

The first Ameren community solar project in Illinois has come online. Overseen by Summit Ridge Energy (SRE), the Fulton County project was completed and energized to produce 2.7-megawatts across 7,000 panels. This is the first community solar project in Illinois to come online in territory serviced by Ameren, a renewable energy provider.

The full scope of the project spans 15 acres across Fulton County, making it the largest community solar project in the state. SRE initially purchased Fulton’s project from Sunrise Energy Ventures of Minnesota. SRE then developed the project further and brought on Borrego Solar to work as the general contractor of the construction.

The Ameren community solar project is expected to service 400 households in Fulton County. Each home was subscribed by Arcadia and will be able to enjoy the benefits of being part of a community solar program. Along with taking part in reducing Illinois’ emissions, homeowners will receive a credit on their utility bill for being part of the project.

According to Senator Dave Koehler, the finished project will play an essential role in reducing air pollution and decarbonizing emissions. It will also be responsible for creating new jobs as people will need to maintain the installation and provide customer service to Arcadia’s subscribers. As with most community solar projects, there is also the opportunity for Illinois to have an additional revenue stream.

SRE still has other solar projects underway, but when they are completed, they’re expected to generate upwards of 150 gigawatts/hour every year. That’s the equivalent of $750,000 per year in savings for customers that subscribe to the community solar program.

Summit Ridge is a leading resource for community solar projects in the United States. Along with its work on physical solar installations, SRE also helped implement virtual power purchase agreements to simplify the process.