New tool launches in Illinois to open community solar market

West Monroe Partners, a full-service North American business and technology consultancy, and Elevate Energy, a non-profit organization focused on delivering smarter energy use for all, launched what they are calling the Community Solar Business Case Tool, a flexible financial model that projects the costs and benefits to the system developer and subscriber of a community solar project. The tool is part of Cook County, Illinois’ Solar Market Pathways project and is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative.

Elevate EnergyThe Community Solar Business Case Tool incorporates the construction and maintenance, customer acquisition and transactional costs for community solar projects into a publicly available model. Key metrics analyzed include net present value, internal rate of return, return on investment, and simple payback period. The tool is intended to provide interested parties across the country with insights about the economic viability of community solar in their region and the implications of alternative project configurations.

“Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is committed to reducing the County’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050,” said Deborah Stone, Director of the Cook County Department of Environmental Control. “Community-supported solar installations hold the promise of giving many of our Cook County residents access to clean electricity and moving us closer to that goal.”

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The model includes some fixed inputs based on data gathered from published reports and studies and validated by stakeholder multiple groups. It also allows the flexibility to evaluate different system types (ground mount, rooftop, parking-lot canopy), ownership models, subscription models (panel purchase, panel lease), payment structures, and applicable credit rates.