Illinois housing project to host unique community solar effort

The central mission of Over The Rainbow (OTR), a nonprofit that provides housing across northern Illinois for adults with physical disabilities, has nothing to do with producing cleaner, more efficient energy. And yet, if all goes according to plan, its Hill Arboretum Apartments in Evanston, Illinois will be home to an innovative foray into community solar. Last month, Cook County officials selected OTR’s Hill Arboretum as one of 15 pilot sites for a program aimed at tackling a problem that has long vexed solar deployment: How do you get photovoltaic panels to people who don’t own their own roof or whose roof isn’t conducive to harnessing the power of the sun? The Cook County Solar Market Pathways project originally launched in 2015 with $1.2 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy. The immediate goal is to develop case studies and engineering assessments for each pilot site, with the hope that the lessons learned can facilitate access to solar power in the next five years for at least 30,000 Cook County residents who would not otherwise have access to the technology.