Juhl Renewable Energy Systems named lead contractor for Chicago rooftop solar installations

Juhl Renewable Energy Systems
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Juhl Renewable Energy Systems Inc., a subsidiary of Juhl Energy Inc. and a provider of solar, wind and battery storage systems for homeowners, small business, municipal governments, schools and farming operations, has been named lead contractor for all rooftop installations through Solar Chicago, a new program serving Chicago and several neighboring villages.

"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," said Dan Juhl, CEO of Juhl Energy Inc.

Juhl Energy's engineering consulting division PEC will support the company's project management efforts including energy modeling and the design and installation of the solar projects.

Juhl Renewable Energy Systems partnered with Microgrid Solar and 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, Vote Solar, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization. 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 homes, the team will offer financing through Admirals Bank.

Solar Chicago is offering rooftop solar panel installations to residential property owners through Sept. 30 at 25 percent below market rates through a partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Vote Solar. The idea, announced July 9, is to jumpstart solar installations in the city, said Karen Weigert, Chicago's chief sustainability officer. Similar programs have kicked off hundreds of installations in other regions, she said.

"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."

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,” Wochos said. “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."

More than 700 people registered in the just the first few days, said Chuck VonDrehle, vice president 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,” VonDrehle said. “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 a federal tax credit current set to expire in 2016 (30 percent of the cost of a project) and a rebate from the selected contractor team that increases as more homeowners go solar through the program.

Solar Chicago lowers customer marketing and acquisition cost as it reduces complexity for homeowners, said Jessie Denver, program director for Vote Solar.

“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," Denver said.

Interested homeowners may register on the program website, www.mygroupenergy.com/solarchicago. Once registered, they will be connected with Juhl Energy/MicroGrid Solar to schedule their site evaluations and receive proposals. Registration does not obligate homeowners.

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