Solar Bloomington-Normal Shines and Surpasses Goals, Lowers Solar Costs

November 15, 2016

SolarBNMclean County, IL, 11/15/16 – The Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) in partnership with The Ecology Action Center (EAC) of Normal, have surpassed their goal of 250 kW solar for home, business and farm installation in McLean County through their Solar Group Buy Program. Meeting this benchmark gave participants an additional discount of 3% on top of the already discounted group solar base cost, making solar even more accessible and affordable for residents through the power of volume purchasing. The program ended on October 31 with 434 kW committed on 32 homes and businesses in McLean County. Notably, two local businesses, Professional Self Storage/Foundry LLC (123 kW) and 121 N. Main Street LLC (75 kW), will be building the largest two arrays.

The largest solar array was a collaboration between Professional Self Storage and the tenants of the Foundry project (a development by Workbench Collaborative), including new and existing businesses in the community – Green Top Grocery, Bloomington Cycle and Fitness, and Gingerbread House.

“Green Top has long dreamed of using solar power to help reduce our carbon footprint,” said Michael Pennington, Green Top Grocery General Manager. “We wouldn’t have been able to realize that dream without the group-buy program and other incentives that helped make it financially feasible for The Foundry LLC to include solar power in our development.”

prendergast-second-6-3Caryn Davis of Bloomington Cycle explained that the solar installation is consistent with their values as a business. “Our business model has always focused on making it easier for our employees (and customers) to ride to work. Solar aligns with our belief that anything you can do to reduce your negative impact on our environment, is the right thing to do.”

A total of 20 informational Power Hour sessions were held since the program’s launch in April, reaching over 230 individuals. Michael Brown, Executive Director of the Ecology Action Center, was happy the Ecology Action Center could help with this program, “As we begin work on a new clean air initiative for Bloomington-Normal, strategies like this are a win-win, helping residents and businesses lower their energy bills while also improving air quality with clean, renewable energy”.

Education is the core of the program. MREA, EAC, and StraightUp Solar staff educate participants on all aspects of the solar process, making the entire project easily accessible and cost-effective for participants. Through the program, participants don’t have to worry about selecting an installer, applying for state and federal incentives, working with the utility, zoning, or any other task that might otherwise deter an individual from going solar. The Group Buy Program helps participants navigate the easiest and most cost effective route to solar.

“MREA and EAC work together to educate those who are interested in going solar,” said Peter Murphy, solar program manager at MREA. “The goal is for folks to learn about solar, which can seem daunting at first, and then go into the process with eyes wide open.”

Together the EAC and MREA have solidified local company StraightUp Solar as the program’s installer through a competitive bid process. StraightUp Solar has installed hundreds of solar arrays and has both master electricians and North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) certified professionals on staff. MREA is an advocate for having NABCEP-certified installers on all solar projects to ensure systems are completed to the highest standard of quality and safety. StraightUp Solar invited another local small business, Wilcox Electric, to assist with the program’s many installations. StraightUp Solar provides interested participants free site assessments, helping customers determine whether rooftop or ground-mounted solar will make sense on their property.

Interested participants had until September 30th to formally express interest in the program, with a deadline of October 31st to sign a contract. The Solar Bloomington-Normal Group Buy Program is brought to you by the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA), with support from the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative. For more information about the Solar Bloomington-Normal group buy, contact MREA’s Solar Program Manager, Peter Murphy, at 414-988-7963, or

The MREA is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) educational organization. Founded in 1990, the MREA promotes renewable energy and sustainable living through education and demonstration. To learn more, call 715-592-6595 or visit

The Ecology Action Center is a not-for-profit environmental agency with a mission to inspire and assist residents of McLean County in creating, strengthening and preserving a healthy environment. The EAC acts as a central resource for environmental education, information, outreach, and technical assistance in McLean County.


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