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Community Solar: Illinois Laws, Regulations and Programs

Illinois Laws, Regulations and Programs

Some aspects of recent Illinois legislation and regulations shape the incentives and terms for community solar projects in the state.  See the descriptions and resources under General Resources - Provisions for Community Solar in Illinois.  This section provides additional descriptions and resources on Illinois legislation, regulations adopted by the Illinois Commerce Commission, and the Illinois Power Agency's Long-Term Renewable Resources Procurement Plan.

Three Statutes Enacted in 2018 Related to Community Solar

  1. Public Act 100-0781 on Property Taxes- This law provides a standardized approach to assessing property taxes for land with a ground-mounted commercial solar power project.  The owner of the solar power system pays property taxes calculated at $199,000 per MW of nameplate capacity.  For land designated as farmland for tax purposes before installation of a solar power system, the land goes back to that designation for tax purposes after the solar project is decommissioned.  Law went into effect on August 10, 2018.

    See illustrative calculations of valuation process and local tax revenue in “Standardization of Property Tax Value for Commercial Solar Energy Systems”  (Sept. 28, 2018).

  2. Public Act 100-0598 on Agricultural Impacts- Solar installations of 500 kW or more must file agricultural impact mitigation agreements with the Illinois Department of Agriculture.  In the same way as for wind installations, the solar installations must commit to compensate landowners for impacts to agricultural use; after the solar project's useful life, the solar project owner must return land to farmable condition and remove structures.  The commitment covers fixing drainage tiles and any impacts to drainage on farmland.  Also, solar installation owners must provide county governments with an appropriate financial assurance mechanism to cover decommissioning in case of abandonment. Law went into effect on June 29, 2018.

  3. Public Act 100-1022, the Pollinator Friendly Solar Site Act- This law provides that a solar power installation can be advertised as habitat for pollinators and birds only if it meets certain criteria.  These criteria are published by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and developed in consultation with the University of Illinois' Department of Entomology.  Law went into effect on August 21, 2018. 

    See "Draft Illinois Solar Site Pollinator Habitat Planning Form” (March 2018).

  4.  

Future Energy Jobs Act

The Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) went into effect on June 1, 2017 and made significant improvements in moving Illinois to reduce harmful emissions from power generation, adopt renewable-energy solutions, and improve public health. One of the key aspects of the legislation dealt with increasing the State’s use of solar energy.  The Illinois General Assembly found that “[d]eveloping community solar projects in Illinois will help to expand access to renewable energy resources to more Illinois residents.”

 

Under FEJA, over $180 million annually will be directed from utility and energy companies to build wind and solar facilities. Additionally, the law established nearly $200 million a year in Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) to incentivize local solar energy developments. In fact, 50% of RECs are for earmarked for community solar projects. These community solar projects make it possible for people who either can’t or don’t want to install their own solar panels to subscribe to a local solar project and in return get credits toward their electric bill. 

 

Two state agencies are charged with regulating community solar projects: Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) and Illinois Power Agency (IPA).

Illinois Commerce Commission

Part 466 – Electric Interconnection of Distributed Generation Facilities

The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) regulates the interconnection and installation of “distributed generation facilities,” which includes community solar projects.

The ICC also reviews community solar tariffs filed by utilities, with provisions for net metering, indemnification, and other terms.  See “ComEd community solar tariff approved by Illinois regulator” (Oct. 9, 2017).

The Illinois Power Agency (IPA) submits to the ICC for review and approval its annual electricity procurement plan.  After public notice and comments, the ICC enters an order confirming or modifying the procurement plan.  See The Illinois Power Agency’s Verified Petition for Approval of its 2019 Procurement Plan Pursuant to 220 ILCS5/16-111.5(d)(4) (Sept. 28, 2018); Illinois Commerce Commission’s Order on the Illinois Power Agency’s 2019 Procurement Plan (Nov. 26, 2018); Illinois Power Agency Final 2019 Electricity Procurement Plan (Jan. 4, 2019).

 

 


Long-Term Renewable Resources Procurement Plan Order (April 3, 2018)

 

Illinois Power Agency