Northern Illinois now has 75 operating community solar farms

By the end of this year, ComEd expects to have doubled the number of community solar projects interconnected to its electric grid to more than 150.
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There are now 75 community solar farms operating within ComEd's northern Illinois service territory.

ComEd and Summit Ridge, a developer and owner-operator of community solar farms, announced the completion of the 2.5 MW Speedway Solar project 10 miles south of Joliet, Ill.

The project, which features more than 2,300 solar panels, will provide around 350 ComEd customers with access to the benefits of solar energy and savings on their energy bills.

Summit Ridge Energy principal Mark Raeder commended ComEd for "establishing Illinois as a leader" in community solar. Illinois had installed 118 MW (AC) of community solar generating capacity as of January 2022, according to the Energy Department.

By the end of this year, ComEd said it expects to have doubled the number of community solar projects interconnected to its electric grid to more than 150, serving some 36,000 customers. 

ComEd estimated that solar power on its grid, including rooftop and community solar systems, will grow five times from almost 650 MW today to about 3,300 MW by 2030.

GO DEEPER: Renewable Properties founder and president Aaron Halimi joined Episode 33 of the Factor This! podcast to discuss the future of community solar in California which, to date, has lagged behind other markets, despite the state's role as a leader of the energy transition. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

In 2022, ComEd received a record-setting 19,292 applications from residential, commercial, and industrial customers to connect solar panels and other distributed energy resources to ComEd’s grid, up 74% from the prior year. 

The state's solar market is aided by a renewable portfolio standard that requires 25% of energy to come from renewable sources by 2025.

Legislation enabling community solar passed in Illinois in 2016 and was strengthened in 2021 by expanding the program to support more than 1.5 GW of capacity over the next decade.

Source: U.S. Dept. of Energy

The Biden administration wants 5 million homes to be powered by community solar projects by 2025, representing a 700% increase from 2021 capacity.

As of December 2021, community solar projects are located in 40 states, plus Washington, D.C.

Community solar's growth is largely dependent on state-level enabling policies.

Twenty-two states and Washington, D.C. have enacted legislation that enables or requires community solar. Of that group, 17 have created provisions to address low-income participation in community solar.

Nearly three-quarters of the total market is concentrated in four states: Florida (1,636 MW-AC), Minnesota (834 MW-AC), New York (731 MW-AC), and Massachusetts (674 MW-AC). All of the capacity in Florida is utility owned, however, and the state isn't viewed as an open community solar market.

The 2.8 MW French Road Solar is located in Burlington in the ComEd service territory. The project is one of 20 Nexamp community solar projects operating or in development across northern Illinois. (Courtesy: Nexamp)

Community solar enables customers who may not have the roof space or financial means to install their own solar energy generation system to realize the benefits of clean energy.

Community solar subscribers earn credits on their monthly utility bills for their portion of the energy produced by the solar project. Energy generated by community solar flows to the electric grid to become part of the bulk power supply.

DOE examines the affordability of community solar through the net present value (NPV) of a residential subscription, which measures the difference between the credits received and payments that subscribers make over time.

A positive NPV means subscribers are saving money over the life of their subscription, as compared to not subscribing.

The median project-level NPV is about +$0.19 per watt as of December 2020. About 76% of projects yield a positive NPV, meaning most projects result in positive net benefits to the customers over the course of the subscription.

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