Community Solar Chicago, IL: Everything You Need To Know

For those willing to power their house with solar energy but can’t install panels on their roof, there’s a great solution: Community solar in Chicago, which can buy you a share of electricity generated from a collectively owned solar power system.

So what is community solar exactly, and how does it work?

Read on to learn more about community solar in Chicago, how to become a participant, and the financial benefits you can get.

What Is Community Solar in Chicago?

Community solar is a program that allows people who cannot install their own solar panels to still benefit from solar energy. Participants purchase a share of a large-scale solar power system nearby and receive credits on their electricity bills proportional to their share.

The principles of community solar
Source: U.S. Department of Energy

Who Can Participate in Community Solar in Illinois?

In Chicago, community solar is developing quite progressively. Anyone can participate in the program, regardless of whether you own your own home, including:

  • Homeowners
  • Renters
  • Small businesses
  • Non-profit organizations
  • Government institutions

Illinois strives to achieve an ambitious goal of generating 100% of its electricity from clean sources by 2050.

One driver of such a transition is the change in Illinois community solar rules: the Future Energy Jobs Act was adopted in 2016, followed by the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act in 2021, which allocated funds for community solar projects, serving up to 40,000 subscribers collectively.

Without a doubt, Illinois community solar legislation is rapidly catching up with other states, and more favorable changes are to be expected in the future.

Benefits of Participating in Community Solar Program

Knowledge about the benefits you’ll receive by joining community solar will help you better navigate modern energy systems. And most importantly, it will enable you to make an informed choice about the energy source for your home or business.

Here are the benefits of community solar Chicago we’re talking about:

Economic Benefits With no upfront investment and a chance for tax benefits, community solar in Illinois – and Chicago in particular – allows you to save 5 to 20% annually on electricity bills and get protection from electricity price fluctuations.
Accessibility Community solar makes solar energy more accessible regardless of the housing type. If you live in an apartment or rent a house and cannot install your own solar panels, a community solar program opens up access to solar energy. Or if you’re financially unable to purchase and install a system, Illinois community solar will supply you with energy at a lower cost, without the need for significant upfront investment.
Convenience Community solar is a convenient way to access solar energy. You don’t need to do anything other than subscribe. Professionals will do all the work of installing, maintaining, and monitoring the solar system for you. Moreover, you’ll have access to information about the production and consumption of energy by your share.
Aesthetics Aesthetics may not matter much to owners of commercial buildings or factories, but if you live in a historic home, community solar “gardens” in Chicago can be useful in preserving its authentic appearance.

Last but not least, community solar in Chicago is a big step toward environmental responsibility. Over many years, the use of fossil fuels has led to a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions, adversely affecting our climate.

Unfortunately, the United States is too dependent on coal, oil, and natural gas, accounting for 79% of the country’s total primary energy production.

Statistics on energy production by source in the United States
Source: EIA
Solar energy is a clean and renewable energy source that can be a key factor in combating climate change. Joining community solar is your personal contribution to building a cleaner and more sustainable future.

Are There Risks Associated with Joining Community Solar?

The risks of participating in community solar are minimal, but there are still certain aspects to consider:

Company Reputation Ensure that the community solar company in Chicago offering the program has an impeccable reputation by reading reviews from other program participants and checking if the company holds licenses and permits for its operations.
Participation Terms Thoroughly review all the terms of the Illinois community solar program before signing a contract. Pay special attention to the fees (connection, monthly, etc.), payment form, opt-out conditions, energy distribution rules, and more.
Technical Aspects Make sure that the solar power plant you are connecting to is built with quality equipment. Inquire about equipment and work warranties and who is responsible for repairs and maintenance of the power plant.

Overall, though, community solar is an excellent way to harness solar energy, save money, and contribute to environmental protection.

How Community Solar Works in Chicago

Becoming a participant in community solar in Chicago is simple, as there are multiple community solar providers in the city. Luckily, there are enough community solar farms in Illinois for community solar projects.

Speaking of which, the most popular projects are Illinois Shines (see the community solar brochure here) and Citizens Utility Board (CUB). Municipal enterprises then join the process, using ready-made lists to form subscription offers.

Let’s look at the process of joining a community solar farm in Chicago under the auspices of the municipal enterprise ComEd:

  1. Connection: You and other participants sign up for the project for 1 to 5 years. Optionally, you can buy a share of solar panels from the farm.
  2. Payment: You pay a monthly subscription fee to participate in community solar.
  3. Energy supply: ComEd delivers the generated energy through the electric grid to your home and business. You will receive a discount on your electricity bill proportional to your share.

Participation in the Illinois community shared solar program allows you to pay municipal electricity bills with credits provided, which are stored in your ComEd account. The savings will depend on your electricity consumption volume and tariff.

Community Solar Subscription Models

In addition to buying a portion of a solar field and receiving credits based on the energy your share generates, you can also subscribe to a community solar project, a more popular method of saving on electricity in Illinois.

Under the subscription model, you pay for the electricity monthly according to a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), or you make a one-time upfront payment.

Subscription Types Features
Fixed discount 5% to 20% discount depending on electricity tariffs
Escalating solar rate
  • First Year: You pay a fixed rate for solar energy (typically lower than regular tariffs)
  • Subsequent Years: Your solar energy tariffs gradually increase, although slower than the increase in utility tariffs
Fixed kWh Rate Paying a fixed rate for solar energy throughout the program makes you immune to price fluctuations
Fixed Monthly Fee You pay a fixed monthly fee per block, for which you receive a certain amount of solar credits to reduce your utility bill
Partial or Full Prepayment Partial prepayment involves paying a one-time fixed fee and receiving a larger discount on current solar energy tariffs.

Opting for full prepayment, you pay for all forecasted solar energy for a fixed term and receive a discount for the advance payment.

Finding Community Solar Near Me

Searching for community solar projects in Chicago may seem daunting: numerous factors must be considered, and information may be scattered across various websites and platforms.

Fortunately, there are several resources to aid in your search. Some states and municipalities maintain lists of projects in the community solar power Chicago area on their websites. Try contacting the Chicago Department of Energy and Environment, the Illinois Solar Energy Association, or nonprofit organizations and private companies offering directories and comparison tools for such projects, such as Solar United Neighbors.

Here’s how to kickstart your research:

Step 1 – Identify Your Energy Needs How much energy do you want to receive from your community solar? Are you truly looking to save money on electricity bills or simply want to support clean energy?
Step 2 – Explore Available Options What community solar projects are available in your city? What are their features and prices?
Step 3 – Compare Community Solar Offers Does the project meet your needs, expectations, and budget?


Ready to get started? Get your free quote now.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who can participate in community solar programs in Chicago?

Residents and business owners who are unable to install their own solar panels can participate in Chicago community solar programs.

Who offers community solar in Chicago?

Community solar examples in Chicago include ComEd, Ameren, Solar United Neighbors, and others.

What happens if I move or change residences while subscribed to a community solar project?

If you move or change residences while subscribed to a community solar project, you will simply need to update your information by providing your new address.