Cook County announces $3M for free solar panel installations
Cook County announced $3 million in funding Monday for its no-cost residential Sun and Save program, which installs free solar systems for income-qualified homeowners.
"The largest barrier residents face when choosing whether or not they can afford to install solar is the upfront costs," Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said in a news release. "By making solar installation completely free for eligible residents, we are lowering the barriers to entry and allowing more residents to take advantage of the benefits solar energy has to offer."
The Cook County Sun and Save program is available to households that meet the following requirements:
• Single-family and small multi-family residences of four units or less within Cook County.
• The homeowner must live inside the home. For small multifamily homes of four units or less, the property owner must live in one of the units and is required to be the primary applicant for the program.
• The household income must be 80% to 120% of the area median income. That income range differs based on household size. For instance, the range for a house of four is $88,250 to $132,360. An area median income chart -- as well as information on how to apply -- can be found at tinyurl.com/SunAndSave.
• If a household income is less than 80% of the area median, it does not qualify for Sun and Save. Rather, it would potentially qualify for Illinois Solar For All, which is a similar statewide program that offers residential solar installations at low to no cost to applicants meeting certain income requirements.
According to the Sun and Save website, qualified homes should also have a roof "in good condition with at least 15 years of useful life left." Some projects may qualify for roof replacement, though funding is limited.
"Not only does this program help reduce our region's carbon emissions, but it will also lower utility bills for residents over the lifetime of the solar system," the county's chief sustainability officer, Deborah Stone, said in the news release. "Reducing our carbon footprint as much and as quickly as possible will help create a healthier place to live for all residents."
To establish the initiative, the county partnered with the Smart Energy Design Assistance Center, which is a collaborative effort between the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and 360 Energy Group.
The program will run until Aug. 31, 2026, or until funds run out.
• Jenny Whidden, firstname.lastname@example.org, is a climate change and environment writer working with the Daily Herald through a partnership with Report For America supported by The Nature Conservancy. To help support her work with a tax-deductible donation, see dailyherald.com/rfa.