By: Susan Thanepohn – Aurora Beacon-News
Plano aldermen voted to authorize Progressive Energy Group of Aurora to look at sites for possible solar energy fields in the city.
Arnie Schramel, managing partner of the Aurora company, explained that the group has been working with Plano for a few years on energy acquisition and management.
Potential sites they have discussed include 2.5 to 3.5 acres for a solar field at the city’s water treatment facility; 8 to 10 acres on the former Monarch Foundry site; and vacant land on the north side of town by the water tower.
He said that with the energy generated from the proposed solar fields, the city could potentially recognize a 20 to 30 savings on its power bills for municipal buildings and facilities.
Schramel said Plano could look at it two ways: The city could buy equipment and run its own solar field, or it could have a group run the field and sell the power to the city.
Reasons presented for moving forward on a project at this time include incentives that would cover around 60 percent of the cost of new solar fields. One large incentive is through the Illinois Power Authority that will make grant funds available, largely for solar incentives to municipalities or private suppliers, in May or June of this year, Schamel said.
He said that once they open for applications, the grant funds will go quickly, and it is therefore essential for Plano to plan and be ready to get their application in as soon as the process opens.
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Schramel explained that there are various grant categories and said that each of the three discussed sites could potentially qualify for its own grant.
With the approval to proceed from the Plano City Council, Progressive Energy outlined steps that could result in construction of a solar field in early 2019.
Asked about the cost for their service, Schramel said, “our service is at no cost to the city” and added the group would receive a referral fee from solar installers once a project is approved.