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.

End of state tax credit expected to impact Iowa clean energy growth

The race is on to finish about a dozen large renewable energy projects in Iowa after state lawmakers did not act on renewing a key tax credit. The state’s production tax credit of 1.5 cents per kilowatt hour will not be available for any projects that go into operation after Dec. 31, 2017. The Iowa Legislature did not vote on renewing the credit during the session that ended in late April. The impact will be twofold: projects now in process won’t get the credit if they aren’t operating by the end of the year, and there will be no state tax credit as of Jan. 1 for larger solar projects.

Midwest states seek to cut time, costs for solar connections

States across the Midwest are updating their interconnection rules for solar customers, a process likely to cut the time and money required to establish a connection to the grid. In addition, the new standards will equip utilities to efficiently process solar applications as their numbers likely escalate in coming years, according to an attorney who worked on revisions recently approved by the Iowa Utilities Board. Updated and improved interconnection standards are “a critical part of moving distributed generation ahead. And having clear, fair and efficient interconnection rules is critical to enabling a healthy distributed generation market,” said Sky Stanfield, an attorney who was involved in negotiating the new standards. The costs of interconnection are among the “soft costs” of solar installation that have not fallen along with the hardware costs of solar panels in recent years.