Juhl Energy Helps the Windy City Become the Sunny City


The Solar Chicago program offers a discount on residential solar installations in the Chicago area, through a partnership with the World Wildlife Fund and Vote Solar. Juhl Energy has been named as lead contractor for the program.

People on the coasts can be quick to discount the Midwest, and that’s no less true when it comes to solar. But the Midwest, and Chicago in particular, have been trying to stake their claim in the solar revolution happening around the country. And the region is making some serious progress.

Last year, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the Chicago Solar Express, a streamlined residential solar permitting program. That’s in a state with a requirement for 25% renewables by 2025 and a constitution that proclaims everyone’s right to a healthy environment.

Today, Juhl Renewable Energy Systems, a subsidiary of Juhl Energy, (OTCQB: JUHL) and a solar, wind, and storage provider, announced that it’s been named as lead contractor for all rooftop installations through Solar Chicago. That’s a new program serving Chicago and several neighboring towns.

Solar Chicago, announced on July 9, is offering rooftop solar panel installations to residential property owners through September 30 at 25% below market rates through a partnership with the World Wildlife Fund and Vote Solar.

The idea is to jumpstart solar installations in the city, according to Chicago’s Chief Sustainability Officer Karen Weigert. Similar programs have kicked off hundreds of installations in other regions. “We think of this as a way to bring more people into thinking about solar as an option,” Weigert said. “And as the market gets stronger with more installations happening in Chicago, we expect there to be more and more growth.”

Juhl Renewable Energy Systems partnered with Microgrid Solar and local Chicago-based installation contractors Ailey Solar and Kapital Electric to jointly submit a coordinated proposal in response to a competitive Request for Proposal solicitation issued by the Solar Chicago Program Administrator, nonprofit Vote Solar. A community evaluation committee selected the Juhl Renewable Energy Systems Team as the Solar Chicago contractor.

In addition to helping participants determine if solar is a good fit for their home, the team will also offer financing through Admirals Bank — an important feature at a time when many homeowners are expressing interest in owning their solar systems.

“We are very honored and excited to be appointed as the principal rooftop solar system installer for the Solar Chicago program to provide affordable and efficient renewable energy solutions for its residential property owners throughout the Chicago metro area,” stated Dan Juhl, CEO of Juhl Energy, Inc.

Juhl Energy’s engineering consulting division, PEC (Power Engineers Collaborative) will support the company’s project management efforts, including energy modeling, design, and installation of the solar projects.

The city is paying nothing under the program, which stems from a WWF grant. WWF contracted with Vote Solar and the Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center to administer the program.

Sarah Wochos, co-legislative director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, said her organization’s role is to get the word out about the program. “We have contacted every alderman, every neighborhood group, every book club, every chamber of commerce organization. We see value in trying to help push these types of opportunities into the public space. The more that it happens, the quicker the market grows,” she said.

“In just the first few days, we have had over 700 individuals register, a terrific start to the program and already exceeding our expectations,” said Chuck VonDrehle, VP of Sales at Juhl Energy. “We are starting to see these types of initiatives surfacing in several other regions of the country, and it really confirms the growing demand for sensible renewable energy solutions.  Instead of a just a roof over your head, you can now have a clean energy solution that is not only reducing your energy costs, but also the carbon footprints of the city and states across the country.”

According to Vote Solar, allowing the solar industry to serve an aggregated group of homeowners rather than many small residential customers lowers customer acquisition costs for solar companies, and results in lower pricing and attractive terms for participants. In addition to the discounted program pricing, homeowners who complete a project through Solar Chicago will take advantage of the 30% federal tax credit current set to expire in 2016 and a rebate from the selected contractor team that increases as more homeowners go solar through the program.

“Solar Chicago provides a new way of tackling the challenge of solar soft costs head on, effectively lowering customer marketing and acquisition cost while reducing complexity for homeowners. The program will also help to bring solar energy into the mainstream in this region, enabling community engagement in local sustainability and economic development goals,” said Jessie Denver, program director for Vote Solar.