Monday, April 23, 2018

Poplar Grove repeals Impact Fees. Will other communities follow?

School Districts were the biggest beneficiaries of these fees.  Both North Boone and Belvidere Community Schools now have excess capacity and may no longer need funds for building expansion.


Community Solar in Illinois

Neighboring McHenry County’s Zoning Board of Appeals has a  hearing regarding a community solar project this Wednesday

McHenry County Zoning Board of Appeals Hearing (Continuation of the hearing on the proposed community solar farm near S Solon and W Ringwood roads.)

Hearing date:
Wednesday, April 25 1:30 p.m.
McHenry Co. Administrative Building Conference Room C
667 Ware Rd.
Woodstock, IL


Citizens Utility Board

Community Solar in Illinois

What is community solar?

Illinois’ new community solar program allows Ameren Illinois and ComEd electricity customers to enjoy the benefits of solar energy, even if they can’t install solar panels on their own property. Many people can’t afford to install solar panels on their own homes, don’t have space or enough sun, and/or they are limited by local zoning laws. Community solar allows interested customers, or “subscribers,” to help fund a solar installation—also called a community solar garden—in their area, and in return get credits on their electric bills.

For years, Illinois consumers with rooftop solar panels have been able to receive credits on their electric bills by sending excess renewable energy back to the power grid—a benefit called “net metering.” Community solar projects would utilize “virtual net metering.” A “host customer”—such as a home, business, or school—would recruit neighbors to invest money in a solar energy project. The neighbors who invest would then share electric bill credits generated by that project, based on the level of their financial contribution.

Until now, CUB and other advocates who worked to establish community solar programs in Illinois ran into roadblocks. However, the Future Energy Jobs Act, historic state legislation passed in December 2016, calls for 400 megawatts (MW) of community solar projects to be developed by 2030.

How does community solar work?

Under Illinois’ community solar program, “subscribers” can enter into an agreement to help fund a solar energy installation in their community—on the rooftop of a local school or community center, for example. Any entity could organize a community solar project, including individuals, community groups, businesses, even utilities or alternative suppliers. Each subscriber then receives a credit on the supply section of his or her monthly electric bill for the electricity that was generated by the installation, in proportion to the size of the subscription they purchased.

For example, say you used 1,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity in a month, and your share of the community solar project produced 200 kWh of electricity. That means you would receive a credit on your bill amounting to your supply rate multiplied by 200 kWh of electricity. Ultimately, you would only be responsible for paying the per-kWh electricity rate for the other 800 kWh.

You can subscribe to several solar panels in an installation. Depending on the kind of community solar plan you sign up for, you could pay one upfront fee, a monthly subscription fee, or a combination of the two.

What are the benefits?

Lower electric bills for subscribers: Customers who participate get credits on their bills for the electricity generated by the solar installation.

Lower electric bills for non-subscribers: Adding renewable energy to the power grid increases electricity supply, lessens the need for expensive, polluting power plants, and lowers market prices for all residents.

Greater reliability: By encouraging generation near the point of consumption, solar reduces strain on the grid, and that reduces system maintenance and repair and prevents costly “line losses,” in which electricity is lost along the transmission and distribution system.

Reduced peak demand: Community solar adds more electricity to the grid, which would help reduce demand during peak times—when prices skyrocket and power plants produce the most pollution. A 2007 Brattle Group study found that shaving peak demand by just 5 percent could lead to at least $35 billion in savings nationwide over the next two decades. Reducing line loss and maintenance/repair costs is especially beneficial during these peak times.

Added financial benefit through selling Solar Renewable Energy Credits (S-RECs): A Renewal Energy Credit (RECs)—a measure of the environmental benefits of renewable energy—can be bought and sold on the energy market. Under the Future Energy Jobs Act, the state will purchase a community solar project’s RECs to meet Illinois’ renewable energy goals. (See below: What are S-RECs?)

Consumer education: Homeowners involved in solar tend to be more aware of, and therefore more conscientious about, their energy consumption. This awareness provides lasting benefits to all consumers since reducing energy consumption lowers costs for all consumers.

Community improvement: Community solar installations make efficient use of space that would otherwise be wasted, such as the rooftop of a school, or an eyesore, such as a “brownfield”—a former industrial site that remains vacant because it has environmental contamination. In fact, a community center could use the financial benefits of such a program to help fund a new roof to hold the solar panels.

What are the general requirements for the community solar program?

Under state law…

  • A community solar installation has a maximum size of 2 Megawatts (MW) of electricity output—that’s roughly 10,000 standard (2 x1 meter) panels.
  • The minimum subscription per customer is 200 watts of electricity output—or approximately one solar panel.
  • No individual subscriber can own or lease more than 40 percent of a project.
  • Two state agencies, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) and the Illinois Power Agency (IPA), have to sign off on any community solar contract.
  • ComEd or Ameren is required to buy any energy output that hasn’t been subscribed out.

Note: More specific rules applying to community solar projects are being worked out at the Illinois Power Agency.

Are there restrictions on who can participate?

No. Residential and business customers can participate as subscribers in community solar projects. Business and industrial customers could host a community solar site or develop a community solar project.

Does the power in a community solar project go directly to my home?

No, unlike a solar panel on your rooftop, there is no way to guarantee that the energy generated would power your home. The power could be used by the building that hosts the solar installation. Or, like most energy generated in Illinois, it could simply be sent to the grid the moment it is created, along with a thousand other sources of power—from coal plants to nuclear power plants to wind farms.

What are Solar Renewable Energy Credits?

“Solar Renewable Energy Credits,” or S-RECs, are a measure of the environmental benefits—such as reduced Greenhouse Gas emissions, for example—of a community solar installation. For every megawatt-hour of renewable electricity—in this case, solar power—produced, a Renewable Energy Credit is created. This REC can be sold separately to the state of Illinois, which, under the Future Energy Jobs Act, is required to buy them to meet its own renewable energy goals.

Depending on the solar agreement, either the subscriber can own the RECs and sell it to the state, or the operator will own the RECs. For example, an operator could put the RECs created by a community solar installation to good use, using the proceeds from selling them to bring down the cost of the project to subscribers.

Who are the major players in community solar projects?

Note: In the descriptions below, many of these roles can be performed by the same individual or entity.

Subscribers: Individual electricity customers who participate in a community solar project.

Site Assessor
: An expert who studies and recommends solar garden locations.

: The individual, business, community group, or other entity that owns the land that is the site of the community solar project.

Developer: The primary individual or group that organizes the community solar project.

: The individual, business, community group or other entity that maintains the community solar installation.

: Sources of financing for the project.
Outreach Partners: Help recruit subscribers for the community solar project.

: An expert who builds the community solar installation.
Utility: Ameren or ComEd, the utility where the community solar panels are installed.

Why is Community Solar a big deal?

Community solar only became possible through the Future Energy Jobs Act. Illinois homeowners with their own rooftop solar panels have long been able to send excess energy back to the power grid in return for credits on their electric bills—a benefit called “net metering.” But very few participated because many weren’t able to install solar panels on their own property. Community solar helps overcome those barriers.

While the act offers a historic opportunity for community solar in Illinois, many details are still being worked out. Sign up for CUB’s community solar newsletter to receive email updates as community solar develops in Illinois. If you have more specific questions, contact Annabelle Rosser, CUB’s environmental outreach coordinator.

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Native American Wisdom

We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.—Native American Proverb

Endorsing President Trump in 2020?

Republicans Come Up With Every Excuse to Avoid Saying Whether They Will Endorse Trump in 2020

Clio Chang

Donald Trump has announced that he is running for re-election in 2020. He has hired staff to run his campaign. He has filed his paperwork and has been raising money all year. That’s not to mention the fact that Trump’s personality and presence is the physical embodiment of “he’s running” meme. But apparently, it’s too early to ask Republicans whether they will back Trump’s bid because they have not thought about it at all, not even one bit.

On Thursday, CNN published an article that asked a number of GOP lawmakers whether or not they would endorse the sitting president of their own political party. The answers are—how can I put it—so 2016.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn: “I don’t know what the world is going to look like. But let’s say it’s not something I’ve given any thought to.”

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, several days later: “I haven’t even thought about that election. I’m worried about the midterm election.”

Senator Lamar Alexander: “Look, I’m focused on opioids. And I was just reelected myself three years ago. So, I’m focused on that.”

Representative Bill Huizenga: “That’s a little loaded. One: we need to make sure that he’s actually moving forward and wants to go after this — so when he makes a declaration, then I think that would be a time to determine whether there are others [who] run or not.”

Senator Susan Collins: “I did not endorse the President for the Republican nomination in 2016. I supported first Jeb Bush and then John Kasich. So, again, I think it is far too early to make a judgment of that type.”

Representative Mark Sanford: “I’m worried about my own race right now.”

[Outgoing] Representative Charlie Dent: “Wait until the midterms. If we get wiped out, the question is going to be: ‘Should we do that again?’”

Senator John Kennedy: “I’ve supported the President in the past and support him now but three years from now? I think the midterms are a long ways away in terms of politics; I don’t get involved that far ahead.”

Senator John Thune: “Well that’s a long ways off. I want to get through 2018 first.”

Representative Mario Diaz-Balart: “I’m focused on working and doing what I do and so to talk about what might happen in that time I think is premature. We have one President, he’s President until the next election, and I will continue to work with him like I work with everybody else to get things done.”

Representative Adam Kinzinger: “That’s 2020 — pretty far away.”

So far away! Ha ha, funny you should ask if I’ll endorse Trump, I have not even thought one bit about it? Because I’m too focused on, uh, [checks notes], opioids. I mean, what will the world even look like?

Bad! The world will look bad, as it does right now you gremlins. But of course, these lawmakers have mostly stuck by this racist administration as Trump regularly flaunts any form of justice. They might be hedging now for political reasons, but there’s no doubt that after a year or so of “soul searching,” the GOP will end up in Trump’s lap, right where it started.

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Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Ever since he became the president of the United States, people have wondered whether Republican Donald Trump will win a 2020 reelection. As the 2018 midterms approach, it's a question that's weighing more heavily than ever on political analysts. Some say yes to the possibility of a second victory for Trump while others remain skeptical. Either way, it's a loaded subject.

In February, Trump shared his intentions of running for a second presidential race, but a CNN report on Thursday noted that a "wide array" of House and Senate Republicans have yet to declare their support for him. The news network described the lack of definitive say on backing Trump as "deep uncertainty on Capitol Hill" and shared quotes from Republican lawmakers about whether they'd align with Trump in his second bid.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of the Republican Party told CNN, "I don't know what the world is going to look like. But let's say it's not something I've given any thought to." When he was asked the same question again after a few days, Cornyn persisted, "I haven't even thought about that election." He added, "I'm worried about the midterm election."

CNN reported that Cornyn wasn't the only one to shy away from giving a categorical thumbs-up to Trump. Republicans like Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander said that there were other issues to focus on. "Look, I'm focused on opioids," Alexander told CNN and added, "And I was just re-elected myself three years ago. So, I'm focused on that." Though some Republican lawmakers have pledged their support in 2020, the number that hasn't could be telling.

Beyond those who won't openly say yay or nay to Trump, there are a few Republicans who are doubtful of Trump committing to the idea of running one more time. Although Trump has already picked Brad Parscale to be his campaign manager in 2020, some GOP members don't think the president will actually go through running for office again.

When CNN asked Michigan Rep. Bill Huizenga whether he'd back Trump in a second bid for presidency, he said that it's a "little loaded." He explained, "One: we need to make sure that he's actually moving forward and wants to go after this ― so when he makes a declaration, then I think that would be a time to determine whether there are others [who] run or not."

Other Republicans, like South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford, have their focus elsewhere. Sanford told CNN that he was "more worried about my own race right now." Additionally, Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois expressed to CNN that 2020 was "pretty far away" to mull over so soon.

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State money on the way to county fair

State’s message to Boone County Fair Association: The check is in the mail.

BELVIDERE — That sigh of relief you’re hearing is coming from Belvidere.

State funding is on its way to help cover the Boone County Fair’s 2018 operating expenses. That’s good news, considering Illinois’ bill backlog is projected to be $7.7 billion when the 2018 fiscal year ends June 30. The funds are coming from the Illinois Department of Agriculture, which provides financial support to county fair associations across the state for their operating expenses.

Jamey Dunn, a spokesman for the Illinois Comptroller’s Office, said the Agriculture Department on Thursday sent the Comptroller’s Office a priority list of payments to be distributed, including $64,715.12 for the Boone County Fair Association. Dunn said the total amount paid to county fairs on Thursday was just under $2.9 million.

Boone County Fair Vice President Jack Ratcliffe says it’s been a long wait. “We were told we were going to get the money in December,” Ratcliffe said.

Ratcliffe said he expects an additional $20,000 from the Agriculture Department this summer.

The Boone County Fair is a not-for-profit organization and it will be held Aug. 7-12 this year as planned.

Last year’s fair drew a record 211,000 people, Ratcliffe said.

The Comptroller’s Office says a $43,974.12 payment was made Thursday to the Stephenson County Fair Association.

Stephenson County Fair Executive Director Amy Maggio said she and her board had not received the payment as of Friday afternoon.

“We’ve been calling every other week,” she said. “That money helps us put on the fair. We’re a premium fair. We also won’t be able to do any building improvement or upkeep of the grounds.”

State Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, said that he voted against passage of a budget last year that was “over $1 billion unbalanced.”

“At the time we warned that painful cuts would have to be made in non-mandated areas to balance the budget,” he said. “When you can’t cut education, Medicaid, pensions, and court-ordered programs, it leaves very few areas that can be cut.”

State Sen. Steve Stadelman, D-Rockford, said money for county fairs was appropriated by the General Assembly, and he criticized Gov. Bruce Rauner for making cuts at the expense of rural communities.

“It sends the wrong signal to agriculture,” he said. “We are an agricultural state.”

Stadelman and county fair officials also pointed out a University of Illinois 2014 study that showed the state’s county fairs annually inject about $170 million into the state’s economy.

While most of the state’s county fairs are funded from the Agricultural Department’s Premium and Rehabilitation Fund, some are funded out of the Agricultural Department’s Exposition Fund.

The Winnebago County Fair is one of Illinois’ 11 exposition-funded fairs, all of which have received funding, said James Walsh, Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs president.

Winnebago County Fair President Richard Bean could not be reached for comment. According to the Department of Agriculture’s Recapitulation Report of 2017, Illinois County Fairs, the Winnebago County Fair was eligible to receive nearly $72,000.

Ken DeCoster: 815-987-1391; @DeCosterKen

Chris Green: 815-987-1241;; @chrisfgreen

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Friday, April 20, 2018

Belvidere “alley” issue fails because of Mayor’s veto

Local News

Belvidere city council members argue over neighborhood alley improvement

By: Gregory Cormier

Updated: Apr 16, 2018 11:00 PM CDT

BELVIDERE - "It's a safety issue being that there's going to be a paved alley with people driving 25 miles an hour, 8 feet from my house," said Belvidere resident Scott Cregreen. He worries about what will happen if the city improves an alley in his neighborhood.

The alley between East 8th and 9th Streets has been a topic of controversy recently. City council members have tried more than once over the last few years to approve paving it.

"Something like this to me is just pretty ludicrous, we don't have the money," said Belvidere Mayor Mike Chamberlain. "It's been discussed multiple times, I have a problem with the ethics of who brought it and who voted," he added.

Chamberlain vetoed the council's vote to pave the alley earlier this month. He says one alderman would personally benefit from the improvement. City council members could not get enough votes to override the veto.

"It passed with a super majority when we voted on it, it passed with a majority in 2012, moving forward I don't know what the next course of action will be," said Belvidere Alderman Marcia Freeman. Freeman lives near the alley and argues having it paved would have made it easier for homeowners to get to their backyards and help police and fire respond.

"My neighbors and the people I represent want their access back," said Freeman. "It's not that they are asking for an alley that doesn't exist, they're asking for their access back," she added. Chamberlain argues spending the 12,000 dollars for the project would take away from future investment in roads everyone in the city uses.

"We need to spend as much money as we can put in our budget every year in improving the streets that are used all day everyday," he said.

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