It’s summertime in Chicago, which has us thinking about catching some rays. But when it comes to owning a home, there are plenty of reasons to soak up the sun all year round thanks to the many environmental and financial benefits associated with solar energy.
Solar energy and home design actually has a long history in Illinois. According to the Chicago Tribune, creating a solar house was a guiding concept for the “House of Tomorrow” at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. Chicago architect George Fred Keck designed a 12-sided, three-story building made mostly of glass. (It was transported to Indiana after the fair.)
Today, Illinois ranks second in the Midwest for renewable power capacity, according to the Illinois Environmental Council. And with more incentives being offered, solar installations are on the rise. As the state tries to meet aggressive renewable energy goals, now might be a good time to make the switch to solar.
Here are five reasons to consider installing solar panels on your home.
Federal Solar Tax Credit
If you own a house—or even a houseboat—and own a solar photovoltaic (PV) system, you can claim the Residential Clean Energy Credit on your taxes. Currently, that credit is 30% of your total solar system costs, and there is no maximum dollar amount.
The credit can be claimed during the tax year the system was “placed in service” and officially turned on. That happens after a solar PV system is installed, inspected and earned its “permission to operate” (PTO) from a utility company.
Homeowners as well as members of a condo association or a co-op are also eligible for the credit as long as they’ve contributed to the cost of an eligible solar system. The credit can’t be claimed for leasing panels.
The tax credit will decrease to 26% for systems installed in 2033 and 22% for systems installed in 2034. Unless Congress renews it, the tax credit expires in 2035. Solar PV systems installed in 2020 and 2021 are also eligible for a 26% credit.
Recoup installation costs
With the push to increase solar energy, Illinois created Illinois Shines, a state-administered program to encourage more homeowners to install solar photovoltaic systems.
The adjustable block program is open to anyone in the state, regardless of their income, and helps residents pay for a solar system or subscribe and purchase solar energy from a community solar project.
The program provides funding in exchange for 15 years of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs)—also called Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs).
Homeowners can start by consulting with an approved vendor to assess a home’s solar suitability and readiness. You can also reach out directly to an installer. Frequently, homeowners pair their solar panels with a battery so they can store energy on-site for later use.
Once a solar system is installed and begins producing energy, the Solar Renewable Energy Credits are sold over a 15-year payback period into a local market overseen by Illinois Power Agency. It’s a win-win situation where the state meets its clean energy goals by buying solar power from its residents, and residents can recoup and offset some of their costs of installing solar.
Get a rebate
The energy company also offers industrial and commercial customers, as well as schools and other institutions, rebates of $250 per kilowatt hour.
Upfront costs might be paid
Illinois Solar For All (ILSFA) is a statewide program that helps lower income Illinois residents – both homeowners and renters – whose income is less than 80% of the area median income (AMI) purchase or lease solar panels without any upfront costs. This includes single family households and multi-family residential properties. Nonprofit organizations and public facilities are also eligible.
Use this income-eligibility lookup tool to find out if you qualify.
Net-metering: Get a credit on your energy bill
Once solar panels are installed, homeowners can sell back unused renewable energy to the utility company. Also called “net metering,” this allows households to send extra power back to the grid to get a credit on their electricity bill. Customers of ComEd, Ameren Illinois and MidAmerican Energy can participate via their solar credits. The nonprofit Citizens Utility Board offers a good breakdown here.
If your electricity is supplied through the City of Chicago’s electricity aggregation program, contact Integrys Energy Services at (888) 802-2885 to apply for net metering.