The sun shines for McLean County residents and business owners with new Solar Bloomington-Normal 2.0 program

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:

Peter Murphy, peterm@midwestrenew.org 414-988-7963
Larissa Armstrong, larmstrong@ecologyactioncenter.org 309-454-3169 x.15

McLean County, IL – May 7, 2018 – The Ecology Action Center (EAC) of Normal, IL, is partnering with the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) to bring Solar Bloomington-Normal 2.0, the solar group buy program, back to McLean County. The program will help home, business, and farm owners throughout McLean County lower their electricity bills by making solar more accessible and affordable through the power of volume purchasing. “We are excited to partner with MREA again to bring the group buy back to McLean County, providing another opportunity to expand solar in our community! The 2016 program was a big success, and we are confident Solar Bloomington-Normal 2.0 will help our community continue to expand its sustainability efforts,” said Michael Brown, Executive Director for the Ecology Action Center.

The Solar Bloomington-Normal 2.0 group buy program will offer multiple free, public, one-hour informational sessions known as Solar Power Hours. Active community education about the benefits of solar is the core of the group buy program. Navigating the solar market can be intimidating, creating barriers for solar adoption. MREA and the EAC provide free information sessions to community members to answer any and all questions about installing solar. “The first step to participate in the program and ultimately decide whether to go solar is to attend a Solar Power Hour,” said Peter Murphy, Solar Program Manager for the MREA. “The presentation provides the kind of information on solar that could take an individual days or weeks to research otherwise.”

The program launches on Saturday, May 19 with a “solar open house” at the home of Eric Marshall, a participant in the 2016 program. It will be held from 10:00 a.m. to noon. The open house is a chance to see a solar array in action and ask questions, and will not feature the full Solar Power Hour presentation. The first Solar Power Hour will take place Thursday, May 24 at 6pm at the West Bloomington Revitalization Project (724 W. Washington St., Bloomington, IL).

“I invested in a solar array for my small farm as a way to contain future energy costs,” said Marshall. “I’m able to keep a shop climate controlled year-round, run a well pump for irrigation, and handle the load of shop tools while still accumulating energy credits on my power bill. The solar group buy process was straightforward and both StraightUp Solar and Corn Belt Energy were great to work with. With current incentives, it was an easy financial decision.”

More Solar Power Hours will take place throughout the county in the months leading up to the participation deadline of September 30, 2018; all are free and open to the public. Visit SolarBloomingtonNormal.com for a full list of Power Hour presentation dates and locations.

The MREA has managed several successful solar group buys throughout the Midwest, including one in Bloomington-Normal in 2016, and two in Champaign-Urbana. To select an installer for Solar Bloomington-Normal 2.0, MREA issued a request for proposals to solar installers in March. A local advisory committee reviewed proposals based on professional certification, experience, and cost. They selected StraightUp Solar, based in St. Louis with a branch office in downtown Bloomington. The advisory committee chose StraightUp Solar for Solar Bloomington-Normal 2.0 because of their high-quality solar installations, building science expertise, emphasis on customer service, and familiarity with the community. They are uniquely qualified to evaluate a homeowner’s energy needs, provide quality solar installations, and even provide a preliminary energy efficiency assessment for each participant.

The Solar Bloomington-Normal program enables residents to effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve local energy security through the generation of renewable energy while simultaneously conserving energy and reducing long-term energy costs at their homes or businesses.

For more information about the group buy and to sign up for updates, visit solarbloomingtonnormal.com.

Get ready to go solar!

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.

The MREA was incorporated as a 501(c)3 nonprofit shortly after the first Energy Fair in 1990. MREA’s mission is to promote renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable living through education and demonstration. To learn more, call 715-592-6595 or visit www.midwestrenew.org. 

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New recycling information flyer

The Ecology Action Center has published a new flyer with updated Bloomington-Normal recycling information in order to help reduce contamination.  “Wishful recycling” or lack of proper understanding of what can or cannot be recycled leads to contamination of our recyclables which reduces the value of these materials and weakens the recycling program.

See more information in the flyer below or by accessing EAC’s new recycling app–Recycle Coach at RecycleBN.org.

Bloomington-Normal Recycling Information Flyer–Reduce Contamination

Normal Municipal Electricity Aggregation FAQs

Residents of the Town of Normal are now receiving notices about the next round of municipal electricity aggregation. Residents may opt-out, or otherwise are by default are included in the new program. But what is aggregation? What is this all about? The EAC has put together a short list of questions and answers to help clarify the issue.

What is Municipal Electricity Aggregation?

  • In 2012, Normal residents voted to approve municipal aggregation, giving the Town of Normal the authority to arrange for the supply of electricity for residential and small This agreement is for Ameren territory only – members of Corn Belt Energy cooperative are excluded.
  • Electric aggregation allows the Town of Normal to secure bulk pricing through a bidding process, and provide rate stability through the contract period.

How does electric aggregation work on my bill?

  • Through the electric aggregation process, the Town of Normal secures a new electricity supplier. Electricity delivery remains with Ameren and your monthly electric bill will still come from Ameren.
  • Constellation Energy is the current supplier through June of 2018 at a rate of 77 cents per kWh.
  • New supplier contract from June 2018 – June 2020 is with MidAmerican Energy Services offering a set rate of 98 cents per kWh.
  • Residents can also opt into a “green” option (see explanation of renewable energy sources below) at 5.07 cents per kWh (which is down from the 5.87 cents per kWh for green energy from Constellation Energy).
  • All Normal residents (that are not part of the Corn Belt Energy cooperative) are automatically enrolled in aggregation unless they decide to opt-out by April 17, 2018.

What are the potential benefits to participating in municipal aggregation?

  • Secure rates. Ameren rates are subject to change twice a They send their rate proposals to the Illinois Commerce Commission for approval. Locking in a known rate through the municipal aggregation program can help reduce the risk of fluctuating and unknown rates.
  • Lower The current Ameren rate through May of 2018 is 5.14 cents per kWh. Their new rates have not been approved by the ICC yet, and are not available.  Summer rates are often higher than non-summer rates.
  • Energy from 100% renewable This does not mean the actual electricity you consume comes directly from a renewable energy source like wind or solar. The grid is constantly being fed by a variety of energy sources from nuclear to solar to coal. Plans that offer renewable sources mean that the energy supplier (in this case MidAmerican Energy Services) is buying renewable energy credits (RECs) on your behalf. The RECs represent clean energy that’s being added to the power grid somewhere.  Residents that want to contribute to green energy generation can opt into the 5.07 center per kWh rate by contacting MidAmerican.
  • Reduces has Residents can always look for other suppliers and other forms of reduced energy rates on their own, but this can be time consuming and stressful. Since the aggregation deal also affects the Town’s own energy pricing for municipal buildings along with the residential energy consumption of Town employees residing in Bloomington – they are motivated to look for low rates to save money.

Other considerations:

  • You can cancel your aggregation participation anytime without penalty. You just need to contact MidAmerican’s customer service department 800-342-3346 or email support@midamericanenergyservcom to do so. So if at any time Ameren’s rates appear lower than the pricing offered through aggregation (keep in mind Ameren’s rates can change every 6 months, and go back up at any time) you can cancel your participation.
  • If you CURRENTLY have a solar installation (roof or ground mount) and were participating in the last round of aggregation with Constellation Energy – any built up production credits through your net metering service will zero out at the start of this new aggregation contract (June 2018), but will start up again right after that. This is because those credits were supplied through Constellation as your energy supplier, and switching suppliers to MidAmerican means starting the annual net metering process
  • Remember, the cheapest kilowatt-hour is the one you never use! Energy efficiency is the best way to save money on your utility bills, and the utility companies offer a variety of rebates and incentives for efficiency upgrades.  Contact the Ecology Action Center for a $20 home energy assessment and let us help you find easy ways to save money by reducing your energy needs and consumption!  Learn more at BNenergybright.org or by calling 309-454-3169 x.15.

Bloomington Municipal Electricity Aggregation FAQs

Residents of the City of Bloomington are now receiving notices about the next round of municipal electricity aggregation.  Residents may opt-out, or otherwise are by default are included in the new program.  But what is aggregation?  What is this all about?  The EAC has put together a short list of questions and answers to help clarify the issue.

What is Municipal Electricity Aggregation?

  • In April 2013, Bloomington residents voted to give the City of Bloomington the authority to arrange for the supply of electricity for residential and small commercial (using less than15,000kWh annually). This agreement is for Ameren territory only – members of Corn BeltEnergy cooperative are excluded.
  • Electric aggregation allows Bloomington to secure bulk pricing through a bidding process, and provide rate stability through the contract period.

How does electric aggregation work on my bill?

  • Through the electric aggregation process, the City of Bloomington secures a new electricity supplier. Electricity delivery remains with Ameren and your monthly electric bill will still come from Ameren.
  • Homefield Energy is the current supplier through June of 2018 at a rate of 5.669 cents per kWh.
  • New supplier contract from June 2018 – June 2020 is with MidAmerican Energy Services offering a set rate of 5.07 cents per kWh.
  • All Bloomington residents (that are not part of the Corn Belt Energy cooperative) are automatically enrolled in aggregation unless they decide to opt-out by April 11, 2018.

What are the potential benefits to participating in municipal aggregation?

  • Secure rates. Ameren rates are subject to change twice a year. They send their rate proposals to the Illinois Commerce Commission for approval. Locking in a known rate through the municipal aggregation program can help reduce the risk of fluctuating and unknown rates.
  • Lower rates. The current Ameren rate through May of 2018 is 5.14 cents per kWh, compared to the 5.07 cents per kWh offered through MidAmerican. Their new rates have not been approved by the ICC yet, and are not available. Summer rates are often higher than non-summer rates.
  • Energy from 100% renewable sources. This does not mean the actual electricity you consume comes directly from a renewable energy source like wind or solar. The grid is constantly being fed by a variety of energy sources from nuclear to solar to coal. Plans that offer renewable sources mean that the energy supplier (in this case MidAmerican Energy Services) is buying renewable energy credits (RECs) on your behalf. The RECs represent clean energy that’s being added to the power grid somewhere.
  • Reduces hassle. Residents can always look for other suppliers and other forms of reduced energy rates on their own, but this can be time-consuming and stressful. Since the aggregation deal also affects the City’s own energy pricing for municipal buildings along with the residential energy consumption of City employees residing in Bloomington – they are motivated to look for low rates to save money.

Other considerations:

  • You can cancel your aggregation participation anytime without penalty. You just need to contact MidAmerican’s customer service department 800-342-3346 or email support@midamericanenergyservices.com to do so. This means that if at any time Ameren’s rates appear lower than the pricing offered through aggregation (keep in mind Ameren’s rates can change every 6 months, and go back up at any time) you can cancel your participation.
  • If you CURRENTLY have a solar installation (roof or ground mount) and were participating in the last round of aggregation with Homefield Energy – any built up production credits through your net metering service will zero out at the start of this new aggregation contract (June 2018), but will start up again right after that. This is because those credits were supplied through Homefield as your energy supplier, and switching suppliers to MidAmerican will have to start the annual net metering process over.
  • Remember, the cheapest kilowatt-hour is the one you never use! Energy efficiency is the best way to save money on your utility bills, and the utility companies offer a variety of rebates and incentives for efficiency upgrades. Contact the Ecology Action Center for a $20 home energy assessment and let us help you find easy ways to save money by reducing your energy needs and consumption! Learn more at BNenergybright.org or by calling 309-454-3169 x.15.

 

2017 EAC Annual Report Released

The Ecology Action Center’s 2017 report is now available for download.  This report details the activities, impact, and finances of the EAC for 2017.
Highlights of last year include:
  • Completion of the new Twenty-Year Materials Recovery and Resource Management Plan for McLean County, Bloomington, and Normal, Illinois
  • Extensive youth education and outreach efforts reaching over 4,500 students
  • Ongoing energy audit services reaching 27 homes and small businesses
  • The most successful Household Hazardous Waste Collection to-date, based upon the metric of total households served–3,022!
  • Launch of a new recycling smartphone app
  • Multiple successful fundraising efforts to support EAC’s environmental work in central Illinois

Results from 2017 McLean County HHW Collection released

The EAC’s fall 2017 Household Hazardous Waste Collection was a huge success, building upon the successful events of 2015 and 2012.  The event saw a record-breaking 3,022 households participate, many taking advantage of carpooling their materials with neighbors.  A total of 1,460 cars passed through the event.

Download the full report: McLean County 2017 Household Hazardous Waste Collection Event Report (pdf)

Giving Tuesday

Tuesday, November 28, 2017 is #givingtuesday, an international day of giving.  Please consider making a donation to support the Ecology Action Center’s work to improve our local environment.  We welcome contributions towards a few different funds, depending on what priorities you choose to support.  As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, contributions are tax-deductible to the extent allowable by law.  Thank you for your support!

eac_2016_vertb    hhw-logo-2016   

 

Protect our local water supplies–curb your leaf piles

PRESS RELEASE

For immediate release
October 30, 2017

Contact:   Michael Brown
Phone: (309) 454-3169 x.11

For many Bloomington-Normal residents, leaf-raking efforts are already underway. Per directions from both municipalities, leaves should not be raked into the street. In addition to being a possible safety issue, leaves can act as a storm water pollutant.  Washed into the storm sewer system and eventually into creek, streams, and lakes, the additional nutrients from the massive amounts of leaves breaking down can remove oxygen from the water, suffocating plants and wildlife.

The Ecology Action Center urges residents to help keep our local waters clean – by either composting leaves or piling them neatly near the curb for collection.  For additional information on composting contact the Ecology Action Center at (309) 454-3169 or consult ecologyactioncenter.org.

Information on protecting our local watersheds is available at the mCLEANwater.org website, a clearinghouse of local resources about our water and efforts to better protect it.

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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