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McLean County Solar Farm Project Wins In Renewable Energy Credit Lottery

Solar panels
Jim Meadows
Illinois Public Media
Solar panels at a University of Illinois solar farm.

Hundreds of proposals for solar electricity projects in Illinois competed to win renewable energy credits in a special lottery that was held Wednesday.

The credits will be used to mark the sale of renewable energy to utility companies that are required by the state’s Future Energy Jobs Act to buy a certain amount.

“Renewable energy credits are designed to recognize the environmental attributes of renewal energy and put a monetary value on something that traditional markets don’t properly value,” said Anthony Star, who manages the Illinois Power Agency, which conducted the lottery, using a random number generator.

Solar energy projects in Illinois do not need renewable energy credits to sell electricity to utilities. But Star said their chances for profitability would be less without them.

A total of 112 “Community Solar Projects” (ones that sell electricity to subscribers) were winners in the lottery. That’s nearly one in eight of the total 909 projects entered in that category. These proposals would generate up to 2,000 kilowatts and are often know as solar farms.

The only winner in this category from McLean County was a project in Downs (operating as Moraine Solar LLC) from Cypress Creek Renewables. At least nine other local projects failed to win renewable energy credits and were wait-listed. Those include several in Bloomington, Heyworth, and McLean.

Star said proposed projects that failed to win renewable energy credits are on a waitlist and could replace winning projects that are withdrawn in the future. He said that would happen once the proposals go to the Illinois Commerce Commission for approval.

“Now, if for some reason a project drops out, or down the road, withdraws from the program, that would free up capacity and funding,” said Star. “And we would start taking projects off the waiting list.”

All 740 projects in the category of “Large Distributed Generation” projects also qualified for renewable energy credits. These projects would use solar panels to generate electricity for their locations, from buildings to industrial facilities. Despite their name, the Large Distributed Generation projects are generally smaller than the Community Solar Projects—many small enough to fit their solar panels on a building rooftop.

Local solar energy projects in the Large Distributed Generation category include ones planned for the Walmart in west Bloomington, the Mennonite Church of Normal on Cottage Avenue, the Lodge on Willow apartment complex, and Pro-Air HVAC in Bloomington, among others.

Wednesday’s lottery for renewable energy credits is not the end of the process for the Illinois Power Agency. Star said they still have work to do for the Small Distributed Generation category, which will include solar panels for residential projects. And later this year, he says the IPA will be doing another procurement for large utility-scale wind farm projects. The first utility-scale solar farm projects to be granted the credits have already been named, including one proposed for the Sidney area.

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