Cook County Community Solar Project Introduces Publicly Available Financial Modeling Tool

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Creation of the tool, led by West Monroe Partners and Elevate Energy, allows stakeholders to analyze costs and benefits of a community solar project.

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West Monroe Partners, a full-service North American business and technology consultancy, and Elevate Energy, a non-profit organization focused on delivering smarter energy use for all, today announced the launch of the Community Solar Business Case Tool, a flexible financial model that projects the costs and benefits to the system developer and subscriber of a community solar project. The tool is part of Cook County’s Solar Market Pathways project and is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative.

The Community Solar Business Case Tool incorporates the construction and maintenance, customer acquisition and transactional costs for community solar projects into a publicly available model. Key metrics analyzed include net present value, internal rate of return, return on investment, and simple payback period. The tool is intended to provide interested parties across the country with insights about the economic viability of community solar in their region and the implications of alternative project configurations.

“Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is committed to reducing the County's greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050,” said Deborah Stone, Director of the Cook County Department of Environmental Control.  “Community-supported solar installations hold the promise of giving many of our Cook County residents access to clean electricity and moving us closer to that goal.”

The model includes some fixed inputs based on data gathered from published reports and studies and validated by stakeholder multiple groups. It also allows the flexibility to evaluate different system types (ground mount, rooftop, parking-lot canopy), ownership models, subscription models (panel purchase, panel lease), payment structures, and applicable credit rates.

The Community Solar Business Case Tool is available here.

“The expansion of community solar in Cook County has the potential to benefit many stakeholder groups while meeting the clean energy needs of the region,” said David South, Senior Principal of Sustainability within West Monroe Partners’ Energy & Utilities practice in Chicago. “The Cook County Community Solar Project recognized the need to assess alternative configurations in order to demonstrate the value of community solar to various stakeholder groups and utility market structures.”

West Monroe Partners and Elevate Energy led the development of the tool with support from other members of the Cook County Community Solar Project, including Cook County (Illinois), the City of Chicago, Commonwealth Edison, and the Environmental Law and Policy Center. The National Renewables Energy Laboratory, the National Community Solar Partnership, and other regional and national stakeholders also supported development of the Community Solar Business Case Tool.

“Community solar can advance access and equity in renewable energy development, which is especially critical in Cook County, where as many as 75 percent of households and businesses cannot currently install solar on their rooftops,” said Anne Evens, CEO of Elevate Energy. “This publicly available financial tool facilitates that accessibility.”

Cook County’s tool was created as a part of its Solar Market Pathways project which aims to identify and establish community solar models and eliminate implementation barriers. The SunShot Initiative’s Solar Market Pathways program funds projects across the country that are developing a variety of actionable plans for expanding solar electricity use for residential, community, and commercial properties. The Sunshot Initiative is a national effort to drive down the cost of solar electricity and support solar adoption. SunShot aims to make solar energy a low cost electricity source for all Americans through research and development efforts in collaboration with public and private partners.

About West Monroe Partners
West Monroe is a progressive business and technology consulting firm that partners with dynamic organizations to reimagine, build, and operate their businesses at peak performance. Our team of more than 600 professionals is comprised of an uncommon blend of business consultants and deep technologists. This unique combination of expertise enables us to design, develop, implement, and run strategic business and technology solutions that yield a dramatic commercial impact on our clients’ profitability and performance.

About Elevate Energy
Elevate Energy’s mission is to deliver smarter energy use for all. Elevate designs and implements renewable energy and efficiency programs that lower costs, protect the environment, and ensure the benefits of energy efficiency reach those who need them most. http://www.elevateenergy.org/

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Meg Avril
Walker Sands Communications
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