$1 Million Available for Solar Thermal Energy Grant Program

CHICAGO – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today Wednesday $1 million in new funding for grants for solar thermal energy systems installed in Illinois. Through the Solar Thermal Grant Program, offered through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), businesses and other utility customers in Illinois are eligible for awards of up to 30 percent of the cost of solar energy system installations.

“As energy bills are continuing to climb, now is a great chance for families and businesses across Illinois to look to the sun to save money. Relying more on homegrown energy sources like solar energy will not only make our air cleaner to breathe, but it will also put more people to work. Solar power is a viable and better option than importing energy from other countries,” Gov. Blagojevich said.

In addition to the state grants, a new federal law enacted last year (the Energy Policy Act of 2005) established 30 percent federal tax credits that are also available for commercial solar energy projects. Businesses can take advantage of both the 30 percent grants from DCEO and the 30 percent federal tax credit, as well as standard investment credits, such as accelerated depreciation.

Modern solar panels utilize several different technologies and can produce either electric power or heat. The Solar Thermal Energy Grant Program focuses on systems that produce energy for heating water for business applications, such as commercial laundries, car washes or other applications that use large volumes of hot water.

Last week, Gov. Blagojevich today unveiled a comprehensive, long-term energy plan to replace Illinois’ dependence on foreign oil with homegrown alternatives. The plan will help free consumers from the grip of foreign oil and gas interests by giving drivers and homeowners alternatives to the high cost of gasoline, stabilize energy prices, give Illinois farmers new markets for their crops, and put 30,000 people to work.

The Governor’s plan sets a goal of replacing 50 percent of the state’s energy supply with homegrown fuels by 2017. It would also provide new investment tools to help triple Illinois’ production of ethanol and other biofuels and build up to ten new coal gasification plants to convert Illinois coal into natural gas, diesel fuel and electricity. Illinois would be the first state to reach this level of energy independence.

"Gov. Blagojevich and I are excited to be supporting the development of the solar energy industry in Illinois and to increase the visibility of solar energy as an important energy option. By making investments to support renewable energy technologies, we are helping to keep our energy dollars in Illinois and creating more good jobs in Illinois’ renewable energy industry," DCEO Director Jack Lavin said.

Solar thermal energy grants are available for qualifying Illinois commercial, industrial, residential, nonprofit, schools and association applicants, as long as those applicants are customers of a utility that contributes to the Illinois Renewable Energy Resources Trust Fund (any customers of ComEd, Ameren, Mid-American, CWLP, Nicor and Peoples, as well as some other utility customers, are eligible).

Project applications will be evaluated on a first come first serve basis as they are received.

The application period for this round of grants will close April 30, 2007, or when funds are exhausted.

For complete guidelines and application materials go to www.illinoisenergy.org and click on Clean Energy.