Monday, July 02, 2007

Thinking about Solar?

Many Illinois businesses would like to utilize solar energy, but don’t realize how cost effective it can be. With generous government incentives, a solar system for heat and hot water is a wise investment that increases in value as utility costs rise. Many businesses generate positive publicity from solar, while taking action against climate change.

The State of Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity grants and rebates, federal tax credits, and federal tax write-offs pay for a majority of the system cost. When installation of a solar system is financed with a 30-year mortgage or a residential construction loan, the system can have an instant payback period, while reducing the operating cost of the building for decades to come.

Fellow CSBA member Solar Service Inc. of Niles, Illinois can not only assist with designing and installing solar systems, they can provide grant writing services for their solar clients to ensure funding for solar projects.

The following case studies demonstrate successful installation of solar for three businesses in the Chicagoland area.

Salvador Lamas: The President of Taco Burrito King, an engineer specializing in energy, is well aware of the rising cost of energy and the harmful effects of burning fossil fuels. Salvador hired Solar Service of Niles, Illinois to install a solar hot water system on one of his family owned Chicago restaurants. He now boasts that the restaurant serves hot-as-the-sun salsa. This system heats 600 gallons of hot water daily and prevents eight tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. “When we decided to build a new place, we looked for ways to reduce the energy cost and solar was the answer," said Salvador Lamas. The Lamas family was so impressed with the results that they installed a solar heat and hot water system on their home and installed an even larger system on their newest restaurant in Niles, Illinois. This system will have an estimated 16% return on investment after incentives. Both restaurant systems gained a large amount of publicity for the restaurant, with articles in numerous newspapers and magazines.

Nathan Kipnis: As a pioneer in sustainable design, Nathan is an architect who utilizes earth-friendly materials, energy efficient design strategies, and renewable energy wherever it makes sense. For his latest project, at 1831-33 Lincoln Street in Evanston, Illinois, these two townhomes take full advantage of the sun with a passive solar design and a solar heat and hot water system. "Integrating these various solar techniques into these modern townhomes makes perfect sense. The site is oriented directly south which allowed us to integrate large windows and correctly sized overhangs to make a clear architectural statement, and the solar panels on the roof provide a really great modern accent." The solar system heats a majority of the domestic hot water and assists the high efficiency zoned furnace. The solar system will have an instant payback for the new owner if they use a 30-year mortgage. These townhomes maximize the comfort and well being of building occupants, while treading lightly on the earth throughout the entire life cycle of the building.

Christy Webber: The former site of the Chicago auto pound is the building site for an emerging eco-industrial park. Christy Webber Landscapes completed construction of the 18,000 square foot building, Rancho Verde, that is seeking a LEED gold certification. This building is heated exclusively by a combination of geothermal and solar thermal. “Geothermal and solar thermal are a perfect marriage,” said Brandon Leavitt of Solar Service, the company that installed this solar system. “Geothermal does a great job heating until the temperature outside gets too low and that is when solar thermal works best. Have you ever noticed that the coldest days are also the sunniest?” This system will significantly lower the operating cost of the building as well as the carbon emissions.

For businesses or individuals that would like to learn more about utilizing renewable energy, the Illinois Solar Energy Association hosts workshops and a solar tour. To find out more information, you can visit their website at To find out more about the State of Illinois, Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity grants and rebates, please contact Bruce Selway or Tom Coe (217) 785-2023.

-- Sarah Feinstein, Solar Service


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