On top of state and federal incentives, Hanover Park homeowners can receive a double-digit discount off the price to install solar panels on their roofs.
The village has joined a three-month program -- a first for Illinois -- working to make solar power more mainstream. Solar Chicago counts only three other suburbs and the city of Chicago as its early followers. Although perks are available to the rest of the Chicago area, consumers living in the main five get the best deal.
Solar panels are expensive. Three- to 6-kilowatt systems -- typical for single-family homes -- range from about $13,500 to $27,000.
And without the incentives, advocates could face a hard sell with homeowners in Hanover Park, a blue-collar community with an unemployment rate at more than 6 percent in July.
"I don't see that as a barrier," says Sarah Wochos. "I see that as the perfect type of customer who wants to stabilize their electric bill for the future. They want to save money in the long run."
Wochos is co-legislative director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center in Chicago, a nonprofit spreading the word about Solar Chicago. Funded by a World Wildlife Fund grant, California-based Vote Solar created the campaign, with previous stops on the coasts.
Hanover Park was a good fit for Solar Chicago because of the village's streamlined permitting process, Wochos said.
"All of these towns have a real commitment to sustainability," she said.
Rooftop systems capture sunlight and then convert it to power homes. Excess electricity feeds into the utility grid, with customers receiving a credit on their electric bills.
Solar Chicago is offering a 25 percent discount off the average installation price for residents in Chicago, Hanover Park, Franklin Park, Oak Park and Wilmette. That translates into $3.49 per watt, down from the average $4.50 in the state, Wochos said.
Factor in a 30 percent federal tax credit, and a 3-kilowatt system falls to $7,329. The state also awards rebates through a lottery. And loans are available via Admirals Bank.
Solar Chicago managed to pass along savings to consumers in part because contractors will purchase equipment in bulk.
"That's a great resource and a great opportunity, and we wanted to make it available to our residents," Hanover Park Village Planner Katie Bowman said.
Along with an advisory committee, Vote Solar picked Juhl Renewable Energy Systems and Microgrid Solar to manage the project. Two other contractors -- Ailey Solar and Kapital Electric -- install the panels.
To sign up, vist Mygroupenergy.com/group/solarchicago. The registration deadline is Sept. 30.
Crews will evaluate roofs and crunch a price estimate. They also will explain when homeowners will start to see savings on their electric bills. Installation takes about two days.
If the total number of contracts reaches 100 kilowatts, contractors also will tack on a 15 cent per watt rebate. If crews eclipse 400 kilowatts, homeowners get back 30 cents per watt.
"The more people that sign up, the better it is for everybody," she said.
On Sept. 8, Hanover Park will host a Solar Chicago workshop from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the Community Room at the police department, 2011 W. Lake St.