In 2017, the Future Energy Jobs Act and Illinois Power Agency established the adjustable block program to support new rooftop solar and community solar projects in Illinois. With goals of ensuring the state of Illinois produced 25% of its electricity using renewable energy by 2025, the law ushered in a statewide solar boom.
When the program opened for project applications in 2019, Illinois residents, organizations, and businesses had the opportunity to “go solar” with added monetary incentives and benefits.
For organizations like Vernon Hills Park District, a regional park district 30 miles north of Chicago, the state-administered solar incentive program meant it could finally install a rooftop solar array at its maintenance facility.
The Park District serves the 26,000 residents of Vernon Hills within Lake County and encompasses five park and recreation facilities, seven lakes, and ponds, 10 miles of paths, and 24 parks, all on 460 acres of land. With progressive sustainability initiatives, the district maintains habitat restoration projects, vehicle idle-free zones, and utilizes advanced monitoring technology to reduce utility usage at its facilities.
“Investing in renewable energy benefits the Park District’s facilities, the environment and our community,” said James Kim, superintendent of Parks, Vernon Hills Park District.
Because the district’s maintenance facility runs entirely on electrical power without the use of natural gas, the adjustable block program was the perfect opportunity to carry out its sustainability goals and shift the building to renewable solar energy.
The district’s collaboration with Trane® began when it partnered with the company to design and implement an innovative, renewable energy solution at its 13,500-square foot maintenance facility.
With Trane’s consultative support, the park district secured the largest amount of government funding available to them for the rooftop solar array, which covered 40% of the project costs. The park district also secured a solar power purchase agreement (PPA) to finance the remaining costs.
“As early adopters of the adjustable block program, the Vernon Hills Park District received the highest incentives available to fund the solar array, taking bold actions to address climate changes,” said Aaron Raftery, comprehensive solutions account manager, Trane.
Prior to the installation of the rooftop solar array, the Vernon Hills Park District’s maintenance facility maintained a 15% reduction in electrical costs between 2016 and 2020. Now, the solar installation provides 122 kW of energy and is projected to lower the park district’s overall costs by another 5%, reaching a total reduction of 20%.
Since its installation in October 2020, the maintenance facility has already saved more than 120,000 pounds in CO2 emissions, which is equivalent to 900 trees. And only seven months after installation, on April 2, 2021, a sunny spring day, the facility ran its operations on 95% solar energy.
With its own pledge to reduce customer carbon emissions, global climate innovator Trane helped the district achieve key sustainability goals, including:
- Operating on cleaner energy;
- Lowering the facility’s carbon footprint; and
- Saving operational costs and taxpayers money.
Now that Vernon Hills Park District’s rooftop solar array is operating autonomously, the opportunity for more renewable energy projects grows. As government programs continue to support environmental improvements, the park district is ready at the forefront to set an example for the Illinois community. For more information, visit www.trane.com and /www.vhparkdistrict.org.