Illinois passed The Future Energy Jobs Act in December 2016. This legislation went into effect June 1, 2017. Under this legislation, the state created a new Community Solar program that will allow any customer of ComEd or Ameren to subscribe to a community solar garden, according to Solar in the Community which is a joint project of the Illinois Citizens Utility Board, The Accelerate Group and the Environmental Defense Fund.

Solar Photovoltaic (PV) is a technology that converts sunlight (solar radiation) into direct current electricity by using semiconductors. Community Solar is a solar PV installation that provides energy, financial benefits, or both to several members or "subscribers" through a voluntary program. Community Solar isn't built on your own roof, but rather in your community.

Under Illinois’ community solar program, “subscribers” can enter into an agreement to support a solar energy installation in their community — on the rooftop of a local school or community center, for example. Subscribers can buy or lease a share of the Community Solar installation; this share is typically measured by a number of solar panels or by the capacity of the solar you need (in kilo-watts). In exchange, subscribers receive a credit applied to their utility electricity bill, offsetting any kilowatt-hour charges 1:1 based on the production of your share of the community solar project each month.

There is no restriction to who can participate. Subscribers need to be located in the same utility service territory as the Community Solar garden.

According to the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, “if you are not able to put solar on your own roof, you will be able to subscribe to a community solar project near you. By subscribing to a community solar project, you get a share of the energy produced by the solar project credited back on your electric bill, similar to if you have solar on your own roof.”

According to the Citizens Utility Board, the Future Energy Jobs Act passed in December 2016 calls for 400 megawatts (MW) of community solar projects to be developed by 2030. That’s enough to power up to 150,000 households.

The owner of the community solar garden typically pays the upfront costs to build, maintain and connect the garden to the utility’s power grid. Subscribers pay the owner for their portion of the electricity produced, typically through a per kilowatt-hour rate. At the end of each billing period, the utility grants each subscriber a credit in proportion to his or her share of the garden’s electricity production.

An example of how it could work: If your home used 1,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity in a month, and your portion of the solar garden you subscribe to produced 200 kWh in that same month, you would receive a credit on your bill amounting to your supply rate multiplied by 200 kWh. That means for that month you would only need to pay for the remaining 800 kWh.

City of Danville solar panel regulations allow for small ground-mounted or roof-mounted systems. Unlike for wind, the solar panels if roof mounted do not have zoning district restrictions.

Chris Milliken, planning and urban services manager for the city, said last year Danville had interest from about six developers of large-scale solar panel arrays on city-owned property or private farm ground. These large-scale arrays would be “pretty limited,” Milliken said. They could go on property zoned industrial, or also zoned agriculture with a special-use permit.

“We could see one or two potential (developers) in the next six to 12 months,” Milliken predicted last year.