Why is Solar Energy Not Good for Chicago?

For those interested in purchasing solar power systems for their homes, the city of Chicago is a destination to avoid. Chicago has one of the world’s largest electricity grids, which enables the city to be very eco-friendly. However, the city’s geography is such that it struggles with extreme temperatures that make solar energy unviable. In fact, since 1922, Chicago has only had one official season: June to September.


The city of Chicago is one of the country’s most eco-friendly cities. Its residents use less than a third of the energy compared to other cities of its size, which enables the city to be very green. Moreover, Chicago is a leader in energy innovation, boasting an impressive array of green businesses.

In addition to being eco-friendly, Chicago is a big supporter of alternative energies. The city invests heavily in wind and solar power. For example, the city bought 25% of its electric provider’s generating capacity in 2013 from wind turbines.

As a city that prioritizes sustainability, Chicago might seem like an ideal destination for those interested in purchasing a home energy system. Unfortunately, the city’s geography creates a challenge for those looking to install solar power. As the saying goes, location is everything. And in this case, location means that much of Chicago is located in a temperate climate zone, which compromises the viability of solar power. For those in the know, this is problematic because the majority of solar power systems require a temperate climate to function optimally.

No Incentive Program

Those who decide to install solar power in Chicago need to understand that the city does not offer any financial incentives for doing so. If anything, the city of Chicago takes a dim view of residential solar power because it sees it as a potential money-maker for those looking to cheat the system. In the summertime, residents of Chicago without air-conditioning may find themselves paying more for electricity than they would normally because of the influx of tourists and housebound people using more energy than usual.


In addition to providing no financial incentives for those interested in solar power, the city of Chicago also imposes a hefty tax on those who purchase renewable energy. In fact, those who purchase solar power in Chicago have to pay a 2% tax on the total cost of their system, excluding installation.

Those who decide to pursue renewable energy and become self-sufficient in energy usage may find this tax structure frustrating. For those in the know, this is yet another disincentive for those interested in solar power. Nevertheless, there are alternatives to the city’s energy system, such as small-scale hydroelectric plants, which are far more eco-conscious and cost-effective.

Less Than Half Of City’s Grid Is Located In Areas Where Solar Power Is Viable

Those who live in the city of Chicago ought to be pleased that much of the city has been designated as having solar potential. Despite this abundance of sunshine, much of the city’s electric grid is not located in areas suitable for solar power generation. In fact, only about half of the city’s grid is located in greenhouses that can be utilized for this purpose.

The situation is similar in more rural areas of the state. For example, 75% of the electricity generated in DeKalb County comes from non-solar sources, mostly coal- and gas-fired power plants. This means that the county’s environment is worse off due to carbon emissions caused by fossil fuel use and that solar power is virtually nonexistent in the area. The same can be said for the entire state of Illinois. As a result, those who live in these parts of Illinois have to make do with what the local governments can provide, which is often not much.

Natural Disaster Risk

The fact that much of the electrical infrastructure in Chicago and other parts of Illinois is built on unstable soil means that disaster is always a possibility. This is one of the primary reasons why local and federal authorities encourage people to become energy-sufficient. After all, the more individuals and businesses that are energy-independent, the less likely a major catastrophe becomes. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. Even those in the know can have problems in ensuring continuous electricity supply after a major storm because of damaged wires and other infrastructure. This is something that those who live in hurricane-prone areas know all too well.

Limited Availability

Finally, those who want to install solar power in Chicago need to understand that the city has limited availability of electrical outlets where the systems can be connected. Moreover, due to space constraints and the need to keep the power flowing, city planners may not always allow for the installation of additional circuits. In some cases, homeowners may have to do without during peak hours because of overuse by others.

If you live in Chicago and are interested in installing solar power, you might consider moving to a more rural location where the sun shines more often and the temperature is more manageable. Of course, this is easier said than done. In these parts of the country, you will still find plenty of people who think that all forms of renewable energy are dangerous and should be avoided. Luckily, as more and more people gain access to clean energy and the benefits become more apparent, those who continue to reject alternative energies may be in the minority.

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