Let’s Raise the Roof with Solar PanelsSeptember 30, 2022
While long, sunny, summer days have come to an end, the solar industry is in business all year long. On Sept. 8, ComEd hosted a Solar Forum with 120 solar developers to share the company’s efforts to streamline the process of connecting more solar to the power grid and on plans for leveraging new funding available from the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA). Special guests included representatives of the Chicago Urban League and the Illinois Power Agency.
Melissa Washington, ComEd’s senior vice president of customer operations, kicked off the event with an encouraging forecast for the solar market in northern Illinois. She shared that ComEd estimates that the renewable energy connected to its system will grow from almost 500 megawatts today to 2,700 megawatts by 2030. This includes rooftop and community solar systems.
Keynote speaker Andrew Wells, vice president of Workforce Development at the Chicago Urban League, talked about the growth potential of solar energy in urban markets and shared his experience spearheading a solar job-training program that is exposing job-seekers to the growing field of renewable energy.
Through this program, the Chicago Urban League trains individuals to work on renewable energy projects, such as a recently completed rooftop solar installation at its headquarters on South Michigan Avenue in Bronzeville, which includes a solar-powered carport, an overhead canopy built to cover parking areas with solar panels mounted on top. With 210 kilowatts, this is one of the largest rooftop solar installations in the city of Chicago.
Andrew also spotlighted a comprehensive economic opportunity program, EquityWORKS, that presents opportunities for solar developers and equity-building for diverse suppliers. It was originally envisioned and made possible by Landmark Development and their ONE Central development project, a plan for the City of Chicago to encourage development in support of South Side neighborhoods by building 9,000 homes. It is being designed in partnership with the Chicago Urban League, Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Business Leadership Council, to build and sustain capacity among targeted businesses and their workforces during both the construction and operations phases of the ONE Central and proposed U.S. Steel projects. This will create opportunities for more inclusive economic development and wealth building.
ComEd’s Distributed Energy Resource (DER) team, which oversees the safe connection of renewable resources to the grid while maintaining ComEd’s utility-leading reliability, presented important changes to the interconnection process to make it easier and faster to get solar projects up and running. The team also presented the latest hosting capacity map, which helps developers identify the areas in ComEd’s service territory with the greatest capacity to interconnect solar projects.
This information was well-received by developers. “What I saw at the first Solar Forum since the CEJA passed is a lot of excitement by developers,” said Jessica Collingsworth, Central Policy Director at Nexamp. “Thanks to the partnership with ComEd for making this event happen and bringing a ton more solar energy onto the grid. The conversations really have us energized and ready to build more solar.”
For the closing remarks, guests heard directly from ComEd CEO, Gil Quiniones, who remarked on the importance of partnering to achieve common goals. He said, “Let’s work together in streamlining interconnection, so that we can accelerate the installation of solar and other clean energy distributed resources. Let’s figure out how we can triage and prioritize disadvantaged and underserved communities that are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.”
Let’s keep up the positive energy. Together we can build a safe, reliable, and clean energy grid.