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Chicago Launches Solar Plan To Streamline Zoning, Permitting & Connection Process

At a recent Chicago solar event, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the launch of a new program, Chicago Solar Express, designed to streamline the permitting, zoning, and connection process for installing solar panels on residential and commercial properties.

The program has incorporated a new platform, the Online Interconnection and Net Metering Enrollment tool launched this month by ComEd – the Commonwealth Edison Company.

Image courtesy of solarfeeds.com.

The platform allows consumers to submit, track, and pay for applications to connect to the electric grid.

ComEd’s net metering program is available to residential and commercial customers who own or operate an on-site, eligible renewable electric generator of up to 2,000 kW that generates electricity for the consumer’s own use.

Customers are eligible who have renewable electric generators that are powered by solar electric energy (i.e., photovoltaic), wind, crops grown for electric generation, fuel cells, as well as waste processed from livestock or food. Customers using hydroelectric energy and that use microturbines powered by renewable fuels are also eligible.

ComEd added that the net metering provides customers with credit for excess energy generated.

The mayor’s office said that these reforms will slash wait times for solar permits for smaller projects from 30 days to one day, and cut fees from $375 to $275, a 25 percent reduction.

The city and its partners, including the Environmental Law and Policy Center and West Monroe Partners, developed these reforms with the assistance of a $750,000 grant received from the DOE SunShot Rooftop Solar Challenge.

The goal of the SunShot challenge was to spur cost reductions for rooftop solar energy system installations for residential and commercial properties through improving permitting, zoning, net metering, and the interconnection process.

The SunShot grant also provided additional funding for the mayor’s environmental agenda Sustainable Chicago 2015, which is a plan organized into seven sustainability categories – economic development and job creation; energy efficiency and clean energy; transportation options; water and wastewater; parks, open space, and healthy food; waste and recycling; and climate change – to create improvements for making the city more sustainable by 2015.

The new policy introduced by the mayor is designed to foster flexibility for projects covered by the city’s Sustainable Development Policy, which is a set of requirements for large developments going through the development process or receiving city financial assistance.

The mayor’s office said the Sustainable Development Policy, launched in 2004, requires large developments to install vegetated green roofs and pursue LEED certification.

So far, the policy has been instrumental in the creating of 359 vegetated roofs covering approximately 5.5 million square feet, and the LEED certification of 405 buildings covering 114 million square feet.

Under the updated policy, the mayor’s office added that these projects can swap a portion of their green roof requirements for solar panels, giving property owners additional flexibility while working to maintain high standards for sustainable projects in the city.


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