'Shovel ready' solar, wind projects await action

Path to 100 says the state faces a renewable-energy ‘jobs cliff’ with funding running out for the Future Energy Jobs Act

Wind farm meets farm: energy turbines rise above an Illinois cornfield. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

Wind farm meets farm: energy turbines rise above an Illinois cornfield. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

By Ted Cox

A renewable-energy industry group says the state is facing a “jobs cliff” with more than 800 “shovel ready” solar and wind projects waitlisted as funding runs out for a bipartisan program.

Path to 100, which advocates a move to 100 percent renewable energy, with a state goal to get to 25 percent by 2025, says that admirable plan is jeopardized as funding runs out this year for the Future Energy Jobs Act, signed into law by former Gov. Rauner.

According to the group, the state faces a “jobs cliff” as funding expires, and “wind and solar businesses will be forced to lay off employees and move into states with more stable markets.”

According to Path to 100 projections, the state can create 21,000 jobs and raise $2.8 billion in property taxes over the next two decades by moving forward on the projects, with landowners set to make almost $2 billion from leasing acreage for wind and solar energy. That would be accompanied by gains in locally produced and renewable energy.

Path to 100 has an interactive map showing hundreds of projects across the state either waitlisted or already approved. It’s asking that the state Renewable Portfolio Standard be expanded through one of two complementary bills pending in the General Assembly: House Bill 2966, sponsored by Rep. William Davis of East Hazel Crest, and Senate Bill 1781, sponsored by Sen. Bill Cunningham of Chicago.

If enacted, that “avoids boom and bust by establishing a stable policy for continued job growth,” according to a Path to 100 fact sheet.

Environmental groups have endorsed the basic goal of getting to 100 percent renewable energy through their ongoing Ready for 100 campaign.