A window of opportunity is opening for solar power in the Midwest.
- The economic outlook for solar power is the best it’s been in many years. Solar photovoltaic (PV) module prices have come down to historic lows and recent federal energy legislation and the economic stimulus package are making solar projects more affordable.
- Solar power can bring good returns on investment by meeting our needs during times of peak electrical demand. When we use higher than average amounts of energy, utilities need to buy power on the open market at very expensive rates. Peak demand happens during daylight hours and especially in the summer. Solar power matches up well with pricey peak demand times.
- Former industrial sites in the Midwest can be revitalized as solar power plants. These sites can house 10 – 20 MW projects, large enough to make economic sense and small enough to fit onto the grid. Locating solar plants on older industrial sites gives them unobstructed sunlight and low-cost access to the electrical grid. The new 10 MW solar plant South Side of Chicago is a perfect example.
- In the current economic downturn, there are plenty of skilled workers looking for good jobs like installing solar systems. Federal and state job creation grants, subsidies, credits and training programs for green jobs are all making it easier to hire workers. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers is (re-) training new skilled solar installers at facilities in Illinois, Indiana and other states.
- State and federal policies are working to support solar power. For example, Illinois added a provision to the state’s renewable energy standard that will drive a market for 700-750 megawatts of solar power in the state by 2015. Midwestern states are streamlining rules for connecting solar to the grid and creating net metering standards that will help solar generators get a good price for the power they generate. Expanding net metering policies to cover larger projects will boost solar even more.
People might think solar power only makes sense in places like Arizona and Nevada. But there are some good solar sites here in the Midwest. We’ve got better solar intensity here than both Germany and Japan, the world’s largest solar markets.
ELPC is working to ensure that we seize this opportunity promote solar power development that creates new jobs, spurs economic growth and helps to solve our global warming pollution problems.
We are working with colleagues throughout the region to put in place the right policies, such as solar “carve outs” in state renewable energy standards, feed-in tariffs, and net metering policies.
We have an opportunity to gain solar policy improvements as the unusually low prices and federal economic stimulus incentives drive significant solar development.