Your Guide to Residential Solar Panels in Chicago, IL & Federal and State Incentives

Modern houses with solar panels on the roofs

Illinois is in the heart of the Midwest USA, with a dynamic economy, magnificent metropolises, and picturesque prairies. In recent decades, it has been betting on solar renewable energy, embarking on a transformative journey toward sustainable energy development.

According to SEIA, the number of residential solar energy systems in Illinois continues to grow yearly.

Graph showing annual solar installations in Illinois from 2014 to 2023

Source: SEIA

Chicago, one of the largest cities in the United States, is a global center for trade, finance, and innovation. One-fifth of the state’s population resides here. Solar energy is considered a fundamental factor in ensuring the energy independence of the city and the state. Thanks to favorable climatic conditions and state support, the potential for solar generation development is enormous.

Read on to discover more about residential solar panels in Chicago and specialized federal and state programs.

Key Components of Residential Solar Chicago Systems

A solar panel system is a set of equipment that converts solar energy into electricity used to power your home. For a comprehensive understanding of whether you need a system and how it works, let’s talk about each component separately.

1. Solar Panels

Solar panels are special devices consisting of photovoltaic cells made of semiconductors. By having enough of these photo modules, you or the manufacturer connect them in various ways: in parallel, in series, or mixed. Thus, a system of solar panels is formed, which converts sunlight into electricity due to the photovoltaic effect. Essentially, this is the heart of your solar system.

In Illinois, solar panels are most commonly mono- and polycrystalline.

Source: Prostar

Monocrystalline panels are made from a single piece of technical-grade silicon, while polycrystalline panels are made from a silicon alloy with impurities. Monocrystalline panels are more efficient than polycrystalline ones: 22% vs. 18% efficiency.

2. Inverter

An inverter is a device that performs the function of a power generator for alternating current. This is necessary because most household electrical appliances operate on alternating current.

There are two main types of inverters:

  • Grid-tied inverters are connected to the electrical grid, converting current synchronized with the grid frequency. They are necessary for systems that sell excess energy to Illinois solar companies.
  • Stand-alone inverters are not connected to the grid and operate in conditions of power outages, so they are usually more expensive. They synchronize well with batteries.

3. Charge Controller

The controller guarantees the long-term operation of the solar panel system. It optimizes the charging current and voltage according to the characteristics of the battery, ensuring efficient and safe energy storage.

Types of charge controllers:

  • PWM: Charging regulation occurs through pulse width modulation. They are affordable and easy to use but not as efficient as MPPT.
  • MPPT: The controller uses the MPPT algorithm to track the maximum power point of the solar panel. They are more expensive but much more economical, especially in low-light conditions.

4. Battery

The battery is an optional element of the solar panel system. However, a battery will be useful if the panels’ power significantly exceeds your energy needs and accumulates more energy than you can use. It will store the solar energy produced and redirect it to devices when needed (at night, during power outages, when it is too cloudy).

Advantages of Residential Solar Chicago, IL

Residential solar panels Chicago, IL are not just trendy words but your key to a better future – comfortable, economical, and ecological. Transforming your home into a real power station that generates renewable and clean energy is now accessible to every American family.

So, what are the principal benefits of installing solar panels in your home?

Saving Money

Solar panels generate environmentally friendly, free electricity, significantly decreasing your expenses. Depending on your needs, you can save money on electricity bills and, in some cases, even fully cover them.

Moreover, with a solar system, you are entitled to government tax incentives: Illinois solar rebates and special Illinois solar programs. We’ll examine federal and state programs in more detail later on.

Affordability of the Cost of Solar Panels in Illinois

It’s no secret that the cost of solar panels Illinois has been decreasing for the past 15 years. This was influenced by the gradual understanding of the global community of the importance of preserving ecology and natural resources. Consequently, state assistance has intensified, aiming to provide as many homeowners as possible with energy-producing systems.

In fact, Statista revealed that between 2010 and 2022, the average cost of photovoltaic (PV) systems significantly declined. In 2022, the average cost of a PV system was $876 per 1 kW.

Source: Statista

So, it’s high time to invest in residential solar panels in Chicago, IL

Watch this video to find out how to combine all the system components into a single working mechanism.

The Ability to Forecast

By installing a solar panel system, you can stop worrying about changes in tariffs and spikes in electricity bills. By having access to renewable energy, you will know exactly how much you’re paying, which is a pleasant sign of stability.

Considering that solar panels can last 25 to 30 years with systematic maintenance, they are also a reliable investment for years to come.

Energy Independence

That refers to independence from electricity suppliers and their rates, as you will independently generate enough to meet your needs. Secondly, it means independence from centralized power grids. You will become more resilient to voltage fluctuations and other issues associated with the grid. You can comfortably tap into the resources even in areas with poor access.

Solar panels are convenient because they work automatically. You don’t need to do anything to benefit from them (except cleaning off dirt and replacing faulty equipment).

Reduced Carbon Footprint

The bad news is that the U.S. is a leader in fossil fuel consumption, holding on to this position since 1965.

Source: Our World In Data

Besides their endless capacity to pollute the environment, fossil fuels are also finite resources. But when it comes to solar renewable energy, it’s a clean and renewable source that doesn’t emit greenhouse gasses and, consequently, has no negative impact on the air, unlike gas, coal, or oil.

The good news is that solar panel installation in Chicago is a great way to go green and reduce a carbon footprint.

Understanding Installation of Residential Solar Panels Chicago, IL

Overall, the solar panel mounting system, also known as a photovoltaic mounting system, is essentially a framework that holds them in place. To install the system, you need to:

  • Determine the amount of energy needed to consider options for solar stations of corresponding capacity. To do this, analyze your utility bills for electricity and sum up the final values for at least the last 3 months. Additionally, you can use an online tool that calculates the potential solar energy generation on the roof of your Chicago home.
  • Decide on the location for installing the system, e.g., on the roof or the ground. Roof installation is more common, as it does not require or take up additional space on the plot. However, ground mount installation will be an option if your home’s roof has many protrusions and turns or is too small.

Cost of Illinois solar panels compared based on where (roof or ground) the system is installed

Source: FIXR

  • Choose and purchase all the components of the solar panel system. You can order each one separately, but make sure they connect (i.e., whether the capacities of the inverter and solar panels match, for example). Alternatively, you can buy a solar kit fully equipped with synchronized devices.
  • Find a reliable and experienced contractor for solar panel installation Chicago. Of course, with basic knowledge and skills in electrical engineering, electronics, and automation, you can install solar panels yourself. However, for safety reasons, we still recommend entrusting this task to an Illinois solar installer. Make sure they are licensed and insured. For instance, Blue Raven Solar, SunRun, Palmetto Solar, and other solar companies IL provide professional installation services in Chicago.

If you understand the described points and calculate all the risks in advance, the process of installing solar panels will not take long and will not require extra expenses. You will have a solar system ready to go in a day or two.

Financing Options for Residential Solar Chicago, Illinois

After reading articles online and being scared off by the daunting figures regarding installing a solar panel system, don’t rush to give up on the idea of generating your own energy. Even if your capital is insufficient to cover all the expenses, there is a way out. Consider various financing options, including Illinois solar incentives, which make solar panels more affordable than you imagine.

It’s worth noting that a solar system is a long-term investment that will pay off within 16-19 years and then continue to bring you clean profit and satisfaction from a decision once made.

Illinois Solar Incentives Available in Chicago: Federal and State Programs

Federal Solar Tax Credit (FSTC)

FSTC is a program aimed at stimulating the development of commercial and residential solar in Illinois and other states, providing property owners with tax renewable energy credits for installing solar panels.

To qualify for the program and receive the credit, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Own a home with a solar installation (not a renter)
  • Have a home registered and located in the United States
  • Have a new solar power system, not a used one

If you meet all the conditions, you must fill out Form 5695 and provide documentation confirming the cost of solar panel installation. The percentage of assistance will depend on the year of installation:

  • 2020, 2021, and 2022 – 26% credit of the total cost
  • 2023 – 22% credit of the total cost

Be aware that the Illinois solar tax credit can be used within 5 years from the date of obtaining the permit.

State of Illinois Solar Incentive Programs

The United States is interested in transitioning to solar renewable energy sources as quickly as possible. The NSCL provides information on State Portfolio Standards and Goals for each state. For example, it is planned that residential solar Illinois will depend on fossil fuels by 50% by 2040 and will become fully autonomous by 2050.

Illinois Solar for All” Program

Participating in the Illinois free solar program is a great way for low- and middle-income residents to gain access to solar in Illinois and reap its benefits. The global goal is to ensure a fairer and environmentally cleaner energy future for all.

IL solar program offers various participation options:

  1. For homeowners, if your family income is 80% or less of the regional average income.
  2. For renters earning 80% or less of the average income, the program offers Community Solar. Here’s how it works: the renter signs up for a local solar project and receives discounts on their electricity bills.
“Illinois Shines” Program

This Illinois solar program is similar to the previous one, as it offers conditions for both system owners and non-owners. For owners, registration in the program entitles them to receive 15 years of payments in return for solar energy credits:

  • Renewable Energy Credit (REC) certificate: With this, you will receive credit for every 1 megawatt-hour of energy generated from renewable energy (solar, wind, hydro) during the payback period. In total, an average-sized solar system will earn about 5 RECs annually.
  • Solar Renewable Energy Certificate (SREC): An SREC is a type of REC specifically focused on accounting for and selling solar energy. The conditions are the same: one certificate equals 1 megawatt-hour.

Net Metering Solar Chicago

Even if you are not a participant in the Illinois solar panel program, you can still take advantage of government solar benefits in Illinois, including net metering. Speaking of which, it allows you to sell excess energy back to the grid.

In other words, you receive a bill with the difference between the amount of energy consumed and the excess energy produced. Sometimes, there is even the opportunity to use the returned credit funds to pay other utility bills. The amount you will be paid is not fixed, as it depends on the provider and local tariffs.

In Illinois, you can participate in the ComEd solar program through one of the leading solar companies in Illinois – Commonwealth Edison. To do this, fill out an online application and wait for them to contact you.

Residential Solar Chicago: What’s in It for You?

Is solar worth it in Illinois? Absolutely! Considering residential solar panels Chicago, IL can give you peace of mind, along with a sense of stability and independence. To make an informed decision, thorough preliminary work is required: determine your energy needs and the number of panels in Illinois, purchase equipment, and install the system correctly.

Chicagoans have the exclusive opportunity to schedule a consultation with SolarCC experts. We will conduct a comparative analysis of products and services from the best solar companies so you can find a system that meets your requirements.

Considering residential solar panels in Chicago, IL? Fill out this form to get a solar quote and learn how your Chicago home can benefit from the solar energy.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does residential solar power Chicago work?

PV panels convert sunlight into electrical energy. It goes to the inverter, where direct current is converted into alternating current. The battery stores energy, allowing you to use it when there is no sun or when you experience issues with the power supply.

What is the total cost of installing a solar system in Chicago?

On average, solar panel installation will cost you around $18,300, sufficient for a 6 kW system for most homes in Chicago.

Are there any maintenance requirements for residential solar panels Illinois?

Panels should be cleaned 2-4 times a year from dirt, leaves, and cobwebs. Use running water with added detergent, but non-abrasive, to avoid damaging the surface.