Governor paves the way for $30 million solar power purchase

Bailey Williams, Assistant Summer Editor

Governor Pat Quinn signed a bill into law June 28 requiring the Illinois Power Agency to purchase up to $30 million of solar power.

The law, which took effect the day it was signed, establishes a competitive process for acquiring solar energy in the hope that it will lead to more jobs and cheaper energy for some Illinois residents.

“Thousands of residents will soon get cheaper, cleaner energy, and we will create good paying jobs for working families in the process,” Quinn said in a news release. “It’s this sort of innovation that has made Illinois a national leader in clean energy production.”

Money for the solar power purchase will be taken from a fund created by state taxes on electricity and gas.

State Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston) and state Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) sponsored the bill. Both sponsors see the legislation as a means of moving the state toward using more solar energy.

“I hope that this bill jumpstarts the solar industry in Illinois and it proves the viability of small-scale solar installations and demonstrates how powerful our solar power profile here in Illinois is,” Harmon said.

Harmon said legislators tried to negotiate a broader energy package this year in an attempt to improve the state’s renewable energy portfolio.

“We came up short,” he said. “The solar procurement was a way to make some significant progress in energy while we were continuing to work on a broader solution.”

Solar energy offers a number of “distinct advantages” that energy sources such as wind does not, Harmon said. Solar energy can be installed on both small-scale residential and larger commercial rooftops.

In addition, Harmon said any extra generated power produced by solar panel rooftops can be put back into the energy grid.

“Once you’ve covered the cost of installing the solar panels, you’re really producing energy close to for free,” he said.

Other benefits of solar energy included Illinois’ “terrific solar profile” and the potential for solar energy to facilitate redevelopment of places with environmental issues, Harmon said.

Gabel, who called herself a longtime supporter of renewable energy, said she believes the policy will create jobs by encouraging solar companies to come to Illinois.

“I think it’s the way the country should be moving,” she said.

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