Efforts are underway to expand affordable solar power in Indiana and Illinois, including in the Wabash Valley.

In Indiana, the state’s Utility Regulatory Commission has approved a Duke Energy customer pilot program that makes it easier for businesses, schools and nonprofits to have solar energy at their facilities.

Under the program, these eligible customers lease a solar energy facility from Duke Energy for a period of up to 20 years, while Duke Energy installs, operates, owns and maintains the facility.

Customers would receive all of the kilowatt-hour output of the solar energy equipment through a net-metering arrangement.

It gives customers the advantages for solar power with minimal upfront costs and no maintenance fees.

“This program gives our business and nonprofit customers, including schools and local governments, another option to incorporate clean, renewable energy into their energy mix through a cost-effective leasing arrangement,” Stan Pinegar, Duke Energy president for Indiana, said in a news release.

Initial capacity is limited to a total of 10 megawatts for eligible customers within the Duke Energy Indiana service territory.

All costs associated with the voluntary program will be borne by participating customers only; non-participating customers are not effected.

This program joins the company’s other efforts to promote clean, renewable solar power, including building and operating a 17-megawatt solar plant at a southern Indiana naval base and purchasing up to 20 megawatt of solar power from four solar sites that generate up to 5 megawatt each.

Duke also is investing in battery storage technology in Indiana in the town of Nabb and at Camp Atterbury. The company is also funding $1.5 million in research at the Battery Innovation Center at the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center to study how battery storage can maximize renewable power sources.

Other renewable programs include the company’s GoGreen Indiana program, which gives customers the ability to support the development of green power sources. Customers can purchase a minimum of two 100-kilowatt-hour blocks of green power for $1.80 per month. The 200-kWh commitment equates to about 20 percent of an average residential customer’s energy use and helps to avoid 4,800 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions each year.

In Illinois

In east central Illinois, the Solarize East Central Illinois program began in May and continues.

The program provides an opportunity for residents to learn about the benefits and costs of solar electricity. Interested property owners can choose to invest in renewable energy solar installations with savings on installation cost through the power of volume purchasing.

Lake Land College, Effingham Recycles, Effingham’s Impact 2030, Coles Progressives, the Charleston Huddle, and the Midwest Renewable Energy Association have come together to sponsor the bulk solar group purchase program for residents and businesses located anywhere within the Lake Land College District boundaries.

The Lake College district covers an area including all or a majority of Coles, Cumberland, Effingham, Shelby, Moultrie, Fayette, Edgar, and Clark counties, as well as portions of several others.

Over the next few months, members of the public may attend any of the free, no-obligation, one-hour long information sessions provided by Midwest Renewable Energy Association and Lake Land College.

These “Solar Power Hours” are scheduled at various locations throughout the Lake Land College district and will provide interested people with information about how this solar group buy works, what is involved in a solar installation, how it integrates with their current electric provider, what they might expect as a typical cost, what incentives and rebates are available, how long it might take for the system to pay for itself, and more.