ROCHELLE — Since the Rochelle City Council approved a resolution adopting a residential and small business customer self-generation net metering policy and interconnection program in February for residents that want solar at their homes, Rochelle Municipal Utilities Superintendent of Electric Operations Blake Toliver said last week that he’s already had 15-20 inquiries.
The state’s Climate and Equitable Jobs Act signed last year required the city to get a policy on its books. RMU customers with solar panels will get a credit back onto their bills for power generation that they put back onto the grid if they don’t use it all. The city’s expenses for maintaining the power grid are calculated into the policy.
“It’s been a lot of people asking questions about how the policy actually works and rightsizing and the difference between having battery storage and not having that,” Toliver said. “For the most part, all of the calls have been positive and people just want to get more information. I think we got a fair amount of calls.”
Toliver said he believes interest will increase more in the future due to lead times for solar panels and power inverters being high right now. It has been mostly residential customers that have reached out so far, he said.
Once customers do get involved with the program, they hire an installer to do the work and RMU goes to do an inspection of that installation afterwards. The real work for the city-owned utility will come when its billing department has to subtract usage off their bill and give them credits for the power they’re producing.
City Manager Jeff Fiegenschuh said at this point, the city is just focusing on customers having solar and hasn’t had any residents inquire about putting something in like a wind turbine.
“I think that’s definitely something communities are going to be facing in the future as we move more in the direction of renewables,” Fiegenschuh said. “Renewables encompasses more than just solar. How do we handle that just on a zoning level? At this time we’re only focusing on solar and that’s what all of our inquiries have been related to.”
The city manager also said that the city wants to move towards more renewables in its own power profile. The city’s renewables currently include a solar field at its wastewater treatment plant and a methane gas plant at the Rochelle Landfill.
Adding more renewables in the future will be a balancing act, Fiegenschuh said. The city purchases 30 megawatts of power through the Prairie State Energy Campus in Marissa, Illinois and will be required to until at least 2042. It also buys 15 megawatts of power through NextEra and will through 2028.
“I would like to see more solar and more renewables, but we want to make sure we do it in a way that’s sustainable and affordable and we’re not producing …….