ROCHELLE – Rochelle City Manager Jeff Fiegenschuh said last week that more solar panels and power could be seen in Rochelle and around the area in the next few years at both businesses and homes.
The state’s new energy bill requires the city to have a solar power policy within 120 days of passage and Fiegenschuh said the city plans to start working on that soon. The energy bill is aimed at increasing renewables. Six percent of Rochelle’s current energy comes from renewables.
“I want to get that increased to at least 10 percent or higher so we can have more renewables, specifically solar,” Fiegenschuh said. “Solar is important. I think over the next couple of years you’ll see us develop better policies for solar and allow more solar, especially on the home side. But we also have a utility to run and we need to make sure that at a minimum, we’re recovering our costs to provide you distribution lines. Because whether you have solar or not, you’re still hooked up to our distribution grid.”
The fact that the city owns Rochelle Municipal Utilities makes its desire for more solar power complicated. The more solar power that is in RMU’s electric service area means less revenue that comes into the utility.
“If you put solar on your house, you’re still connected to our distribution system and we still have to maintain that distribution system to service you when it’s night, when it’s cloudy, when it’s snowing and when there’s not enough sun to provide the solar,” Fiegenschuh said.
The city is working on a new solar rate for homeowners that install them that would be two pronged. One rate would apply if the owner of the solar panels has battery backup, that way the batteries store the power and it can be used at night. The other rate applies to solar without battery backup where the only time the power is being used is during the day.
The Rochelle city council has recently approved solar agreements with Kennay Farms Distilling and Chicagoland Skydiving Center.
The city committed $90,000 over a three-year period for the Kennay Farms Solar Project. That project is not net metered, meaning any additional power produced will go back onto RMU’s grid at no cost. The city expects to recover its investment in power savings within 10 years.
The council unanimously approved an interconnection agreement with CSC at its Monday meeting that allows CSC to install solar panels on the roof of its facility. The energy produced by the panels will be a reduction in load for both CSC and …….