San Diego based Solar Alliance Energy plans to build a 500 kW community solar generation and battery storage project in Southern Illinois. The plan is to identify a site for the project and sign a power purchase agreement with a local utility in 2017, then start construction and complete it within 18 months after that. The company says the project will include a workforce redevelopment program to provide skills training and jobs to 30 unemployed or underemployed coal industry workers.
Solar Alliance CFO Eric Knutzen has family roots in Southern Illinois. During a company brainstorming session, he raised his hand to suggest the company look at the southern Illinois area. “We said, what can we do to get into an area that maybe has high electric rates and also displaced workers? I sort of raised my hand and said, ‘Well, I definitely know where there’s some displaced coal workers, underemployed at minimum, if not unemployed — I mean, my mom’s house is even built on top of a coal mine,’”Knutzen says.
He says the project will address several issues that are inter-related. “What I’ve seen is the need for a transition to other skill sets, and there is, as you know, a big transition energy-wise to find solutions that save everyone money and address the issues in hand of greenhouse gases, and the use of a fuel or a source of energy that we can count on over the long term, and not just temporarily. Solar is one of those long-term solutions.”
The project will provide power to both residential and commercial customers, Knutzen says. “I think all of us want our electric bills on a monthly basis to go down,” he suggests.