Illinois Solar Panel Buyers Guide [Installation & Efficiency 2022]
Here’s what we’ll cover in this guide to Illinois solar panels:
- The process of installing solar equipment on your home
- The average cost and savings you’ll enjoy when you go solar in IL
- How to figure out how many panels you need for your home
How to Get Solar Panels in Illinois
The process of installing solar in IL is fairly simple. You’ll start by reaching out to a local installer for a free quote. The design team will inspect your home, measure your roof and assess your energy needs by reviewing a recent bill from your utility company. It will then design a system that will provide the electricity you need.
The installation team will then take over. It will pull permits and will discuss financing options — including cash purchases, solar loans, solar leases and power purchase agreements (PPAs) — if necessary. Once permits are approved by your local building department, the system will be installed and commissioned.
Going solar in IL is a sound investment for most residents. It does come with high up-front costs in some cases, but it saves the average resident around $16,500 on utility bills over the life of the system. Amazingly, that’s after the panels pay for themselves!
Sun Badger Solar
What Is the Price of Solar Panel Installation in Illinois?
The solar panel cost in IL can fluctuate based on many different factors. However, the average cost in the area is around $2.73 per watt, which is above the U.S. average of $2.66.
Most IL residents need a system of around 7.5 kilowatts (kW), bringing the total system cost to $20,475 or $14,333 after the federal investment tax credit is considered.
Solar panel systems typically pay for themselves in IL by providing savings on monthly utility bills. With an average electricity bill of around $93.98 in IL, your solar panel payback period is expected to be around 12 years. This is average in the U.S. After that point, your system should save you an additional $16,585 on energy costs.
For more information on the cost of photovoltaic (PV) equipment in IL and how much yours will save you in the long run, you can check out our article on solar panel costs in IL.
The Best Solar Panel Brands Available in Illinois
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), Illinois ranks 16th in the country for solar conversions.1 With a booming local solar industry, customers will have their pick of numerous panel brands.
As we’ll discuss in the next section, most properties in IL receive plenty of sunlight to make solar viable, so most residents don’t need to splurge on the highest-efficiency brands. However, the extreme weather in the Prairie State does mean that opting for a brand with a lengthy equipment warranty is a good idea.
Below are some of the brands that are more prevalent in IL for this reason. This is certainly not a complete list, but most solar customers in the area choose from these options.
- Trina Solar
- Canadian Solar
- LG (will no longer be available in the coming years)
Is Illinois a Good State for Solar Panels?
Illinois is generally considered a great place to install solar equipment, and most homeowners find that solar is a sound investment. Below, we’ll discuss a few of the primary reasons why solar in IL is so prevalent and lucrative.
- Plenty of sunlight: IL homeowners experience an average of 198 days of sunshine per year, which is just a touch below the U.S. average.2 This is plenty of sunshine to allow an appropriately-sized solar system to produce all of the energy you need. Many residents are able to offset a large portion of their electric bills.
- Below-average energy needs: IL residents use an average of 721 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity each month.3 This is below average when compared to other states in the country. Areas with below-average energy needs typically require smaller solar arrays to cover their electricity consumption. As a result, Illinois residents have lower up-front costs when ditching the fossil fuels and emissions and converting to renewable energy.
- Outstanding solar incentives: The State of Illinois has taken a pro-solar stance over the past few decades, and the result is a multitude of solar tax incentives and other perks that make solar more affordable and appealing. We’ll get into the specific benefits and rebate programs in a later section.
- Frequent power outages: IL residents experience an abundance of extreme weather, including intense and frequent thunderstorms and tornadoes.4 Unfortunately, this means a high likelihood of power outages throughout the state. Many solar customers choose to install solar batteries as a part of their systems, which provide electricity for days or even weeks through blackout conditions.
How Much Energy Can I Get From Solar Panels in Illinois?
The amount of electricity your solar project produces will vary from day to day and throughout the year. Different systems will also generate different amounts of power. The variances are due to a few key factors that have a significant impact on solar energy production. We’ll briefly discuss these below.
- The direction your roof faces: Believe it or not, the direction your roof faces is a major consideration when installing home solar systems. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), roofs in North America that face south get the most direct and intense sunlight because of the path of the sun through the sky.5 Solar can be a great option for other roof orientations as well, but your installer might need to add extra panels for increased production.
- Tree coverage or other shading: Any impediment to the sunlight on your rooftop solar panels — can reduce your rate of energy generation. In most cases, tree coverage will be the biggest obstacle, but shading from nearby buildings and even utility poles and wires will have some effect on your rate of production.
- Panel efficiency rating: The panel brand you choose will determine your system’s energy efficiency rating, which is a measurement of the amount of available sunlight your system can convert to solar electricity. High-efficiency panels will provide more energy using the same amount of space on your roof as lower-efficiency options.
- Weather: The weather in your area can cause daily or even hourly fluctuations in energy generation. Bright, sunny days will yield the highest amount of electricity, while cloud coverage can significantly reduce production. Average weather conditions are always taken into consideration in our calculations.
- The size of your solar power system: Finally, the size of your solar system will play arguably the largest role in how much power you produce. Adding panels to your solar array will yield greater energy production in all situations, provided the other variables above remain the same.
These factors can create significant swings in the rate of energy production. However, you can get a rough estimate of how much power your panels will produce by referring to the table below. These are expected production rates for typical solar system sizes in IL.
|Solar Power System Size||Expected Daily Energy Generation||Expected Monthly Energy Generation||Expected Annual Energy Generation|
|5 kW||16.6 kWh||500 kWh||6,000 kWh|
|6 kW||20 kWh||600 kWh||7,200 kWh|
|7 kW||23.3 kWh||700 kWh||8,400 kWh|
|8 kW||26.6 kWh||800 kWh||9,600 kWh|
|9 kW||30 kWh||900 kWh||10,800 kWh|
|10 kW||33.3 kWh||1,000 kWh||12,000 kWh|
|11 kW||36.6 kWh||1,100 kWh||13,200 kWh|
If you’d like more information on how these factors might affect your production or you need more personalized estimates, you can use our solar estimates calculator to see what kind of energy the panels on your roof are expected to provide.
Solar Panel Policy History in Illinois
Illinois was a bit late to the renewable energy movement. In 1980, the Illinois Solar Energy Association was established to provide information and education for consumers. It wasn’t until the late 1990s, though, that the state passed several pro-solar laws and regulations that have led to a booming solar industry in the state.
The commitment to renewable energy sources began in 1998 when the state passed the special assessment for solar energy systems. This is essentially a property tax exemption for photovoltaic equipment, which prevents your property taxes from increasing after solar conversion.
That same year, the state developed two funds for promoting renewable energy: the Renewable Energy Resources Trust Fund (RERTF) and the Clean Energy Community Foundation (CECF).
The RERTF was funded via small charges on all electricity bills in the state. The money went toward providing grants for solar conversions. Unfortunately, this solar program ended in 2015 and has yet to be reinstated.
The CECF was funded by Commonwealth Edison, the largest utility provider in IL. The funds went toward providing solar for government buildings, schools and nonprofit organizations.
A few years later, in 2001, the Illinois Power Agency (IPA) set its first Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) goal, but reaching the goal was voluntary so it didn’t make a big difference in how the state produced energy.
The RPS was revised in 2007 to make participation mandatory for all investor-owned utilities (IOUs) and alternative retail electric providers (REPs). The new goal was to generate at least 25 percent of the state’s electricity via clean energy sources by 2025. The RSP has since been revised to 40 percent by 2030 and 50 percent by 2040.
In 2016, the state passed the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA), which promoted solar research and development and provided a 1.5% carve-out for solar in the state’s energy goal. That same year, IL redesigned its existing local Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC) market. It was renamed the Adjustable Block Program (ABP), and the new stipulations made it more beneficial for solar customers. Energy credits can be sold on the SREC market for cash to help repay solar system costs.
Finally, in 2021, Illinois signed the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA), which aims to have the entire state carbon-free by 2045.
What Are The Solar Panel Incentives in Illinois?
Thanks to the pro-solar laws in IL, residents have access to quite a few state incentives that reduce upfront costs of converting to solar and increase long-term savings. We’ll briefly discuss the incentives available in the area below.
- Net metering: The net metering program in IL lets you generate more electricity than you need with your panels and then get credits on future energy bills for “banked” energy. This helps reduce your panel payback timeline and maximizes long-term energy savings. Unfortunately, IL doesn’t offer virtual net metering for community solar. However, options for those taking part in community solar could be available in the future.
- Federal solar tax credit: The federal tax credit is applied to your income taxes owed for the year you install your system. The credit is for 30% of your total system cost, which averages out to around $6,100 in IL.
- Illinois Solar for All Program: The Illinois Solar for All Program is designed to help low-income households install solar for little or no money down. It also provides consumer protection for qualifying individuals for maximum peace of mind throughout the process.
- Illinois Shines Program: This is Illinois’ SREC program, which provides cash back for every 1,000 kWh (1 megawatt-hour) generated with your panels.
- Property tax exemption: Since installing solar equipment improves your home value, it would normally bump up your property taxes as well.5 This exemption prevents that from happening and helps avoid one major downside to going solar.
- Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) rebate program: Finally, commercial customers of ComEd can take an additional $250 in solar rebates for every kilowatt they install on their buildings. This is good for systems up to 2,000 kW.
For more information on these perks or to check for additional local incentives, you can check out our complete guide to Illinois solar incentives.
Find a Local Installer in Illinois
The SEIA (Solar Energy Industries Association) notes that there are nearly 100 solar installers serving customers in IL.6 Choosing the best one can take a lot of time, energy and research, but it’s one of the most crucial decisions you’ll make about your system.
Below, we’ll include links to ratings and rankings for the top solar installers in major cities in IL.
If you’re looking for larger statewide or regional solar companies, or you need an installer outside of one of the cities above, you can check out our guide to the best solar providers in Illinois.