ComEd launches Chicago Solar

April C. Murelio

Contributing Editor

To provide renewable energy options to its 3.4 million customers, ComEd plans to team up with Spire Corp., and invest $6 million in a new Chicago solar manufacturing company.

As part of an agreement with the City of Chicago to invest at least $12 million in solar generation equipment through 2004, ComEd plans to purchase photovoltaic equipment from this new enterprise-Chicago Solar-over at least a 30-month period.

ComEd will work closely with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley`s office to identify which city locations are best suited for solar installations. Likely candidates include schools, transit facilities, other public buildings, and lighting street lamps and community gardens.

According to Mollie West, ComEd spokesperson, this $6 million investment represents the largest shareholder-funded program for buying and installing photovoltaics in the country. The City of Chicago plans to purchase an additional $2 million worth of photovoltaics from Chicago Solar.

Eventually, said John W. Rowe, chairman and CEO of Unicom, ComEd`s parent company, the utility hopes to offer the photovoltaic equipment to all residential, commercial and industrial customers.

“Our agreement to purchase Chicago Solar products is just the beginning of ComEd`s overall investment in renewable energy,” he said.

Massachusetts-based Spire Corp., which will establish and operate Chicago Solar, plans to locate the new facility on Chicago`s West Side in a rehabilitated two-story building. This represents Spire`s first United States production line. Renovation of the building and four-acre site began in late September, with production expected by July 2000. The facility represents Chicago`s first “brightfields” redevelopment project and kicks off a national U.S. Department of Energy initiative to recycle the country`s brownfields.

The facility once housed Sacremento Crushing-a construction and demolition debris recycler that closed in 1996 for violating city environmental laws.

Besides Chicago Solar, the site will be used by GreenCorps Chicago, which trains low-income residents in landscaping and horticulture. According to Spire, the solar systems installed throughout the city as a result of ComEd`s investment will produce more than 22 million kilowatts of power each year and spare the area about 25 million pounds of carbon dioxide over the next five years.

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