Solar Program In Fox Valley Providing Power For Government Agencies, Mooseheart


One of the largest solar developments in the Chicago area, which happens to be in the Fox Valley, is now energized and operating.

Officials held a ribbon-cutting recently to officially bring online the solar fields at the Fox Metro Water Reclamation District, which is one of four fields for three governmental agencies and one non-profit organization that make up the entire project.

The about $16 million project is expected to save a combined $14.5 million for Fox Metro, the city of Plano, Kendall County and Mooseheart, the Child City, near Batavia.

It should reduce carbon emissions by 212,000 metric tons – the equivalent of eliminating 45,000 cars and 24 million gallons of gasoline – and create the equivalent amount of power to provide electricity for every home in Aurora for one year, according to Chris Childress, of Progressive Energy Solutions.

Progressive did the project origination, oversight and development for the four entities, utilizing federal funds provided through the Future Energy Jobs Act, Childress said. The money was collected from a charge on all ComEd customers’ bills.

“No taxpayer dollars were used to build it,” Childress said. “We were able to bring these dollars back to the community.”

One of the solar fields, he said, is at the former General Electric plant north of Fox Metro’s treatment plant along Route 30. The one-time U.S. Environmental Protection Agency superfund site was sitting unused.

The field is expected to generate about 16% of the energy Fox Metro uses.

Kendall County put its solar field on available land near its courthouse in Yorkville, and it is expected to generate 60% of the electricity for the courthouse, county jail and public health department building.

Plano’s field is at its wastewater treatment plant, and is expected to create 65% of the energy for that treatment facility.

Mooseheart built its field on its property, and is expected to get about 70% of the power needed for the entire Child City and school.

The four entities went together to create a cost-effective bid, and they were one of 180 projects awarded the federal money out of about 1,000 applications.

The four projects are what are called “behind the meter” projects, meaning the power created goes directly to each entity.

There also are what are known as “community field” projects, in which solar panel fields can be built anywhere, and the power is put into the overall electric grid. The entity that creates the field then gets credits on its bill for the power.

That’s what the city of Aurora engaged Progressive to look at on land at the Aurora Municipal Airport. That project was shelved for the time being because community field projects were “over-subscribed,” Childress said, meaning less than 5% of those projects were being awarded.

The project remains a possibility for the future. The Illinois General Assembly currently is working on the Clean Energy Jobs Act that would provide more money for solar applications and projects.

Childress said Progressive Energy is working with local municipalities to get them in line for the second round of funds.

“Our goal is to quadruple the solar production in the Fox Valley area over the next five years,” he said.

He said doing that could save area businesses and municipalities more than $50 million a year, and reduce their carbon footprint by 60%.

SOURCE Aurora Beacon-News