To promote SSI’s mission of encouraging the Springfield area citizen and business community to live and operate more sustainably, SSI along with the Sangamon Valley Sierra Club hosted a panel discussion on solar panel installation in Springfield. The discussion took place on January 28, 2013 in downtown Springfield at Lincoln library and was free to the public. The main focus of the event was to emphasize how affordable solar panels can be. Panel members included Michelle Knox, owner of WindSolarUSA, Inc., Bob Croteau of City Water Light and Power’s (CWLP) Solar Rewards Program, Julie Rourke of Lincoln Land Community College’s (LLCC) workforce Development Center, Chef Michael Higgins of Maldaner’s Restaurant, and Robert LaBonte of the Springfield Bicycle Doctor Shop.
Michael Higgins, Chef and owner of Maldaner’s Restaurant in Springfield is doing his part to make Springfield a more sustainable city. In addition to having a garden and beehives on the rooftop of his restaurant, which supplies fresh vegetable, herbs, and honey for his restaurant, he has installed 56 solar panels. By installing solar panels he hopes to save about $2,400 a year on energy costs.
That sounds like an amazing cost savings and doesn’t even take into account the benefits renewable energy sources like solar panels have on the environment. If renewable energy sources have a double bonus of saving money and the environment, then why don’t we make use of them more often? The problem comes from the high upfront costs associated with switching to renewable energy. For many, because of this high cost the use of renewable energy is not an option. This is why our old and relatively cheap conventional energy sources continue to be our primary energy sources. The panel discussion focused on the affordability of solar panel installation in Springfield. Due to a variety of incentives, tax credits, and grants available, solar power can be a practical option for the Springfield area citizen and business community.
To put this in better perspective, the installation cost for the 56 solar panels installed on Maldener’s Restaurant cost $65,000. Higgins received a $38,854 grant from the Illinois Green Economy Network through a partnership with LLCC. This partnership provides training in alternative energy technology at LLCC by enabling college students to follow the installation process and track the energy savings. Also, in addition to federal tax credits, Higgins was able to acquire $15,000 in solar power rebates from CWLP through the Solar Rewards Program. Higgins estimates his out-of-pocket expenses for the project at $350. Now that’s not a bad investment, especially, an investment with so many positives.
WindSolarUSA, Inc., based out of Owaneco, Illinois, installed the panels at Maldaner’s and at the Springfield Bicycle Doctor Shop, another Springfield area business dedicated to reducing their environmental footprint. WindSolarUSA is a “full-service renewable energy company assisting individuals, businesses, and rural agricultural producers to secure clean energy at a fixed price for partial or total energy self-sufficiency.” In addition to installation services, they research funding opportunities and provide grant writing to help finance your project. So, if a Springfield citizen or business is intimidated by the process of switching to renewable energy, WindSolarUSA will guide you through the process.
In regards to the solar panels they installed on Maldaner’s Restaurant, Michelle Knox, owner of WindSolarUSA, Inc. says, “Projects like this are a stepping stone.” Let’s hope that is true and Springfield’s commitment to sustainability continues to take off.