SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - While the availability of sunlight can make any state a solar leader, a new report emphasizes the importance of public policies that encourage solar power development.
According to the Environment Illinois Research and Policy Center, the state's progress on solar has added to the tripling of solar-energy output nationwide from 2011 to 2013. In Illinois, said Lauren Shinaberry, a legislative intern for the center, it increased by 4 percent.
"It went up from 46 megawatts to 48 megawatts for solar power," she said. "Although that doesn't seem like a big increase, it definitely plays a large role in supporting the solar job market in Illinois."
There are more than 2,000 solar-industry jobs in Illinois. The report confirmed a link between strong public policies and greater solar output.
Shinaberry said Illinois could follow the example of leading solar states by eliminating barriers to consumers "going solar" and providing financial assistance to expand it to any interested person, business or agency.
While Illinois ranks 25th out of 32 states for growth in solar power, Shinaberry said, state leaders are taking an interest in expanding it.
"Illinois' Solar and Wind Energy Rebate, which was introduced the end of last year - we feel programs like that really help to build the growth of solar generation," she said.
Meanwhile, Gov. Pat Quinn recently signed legislation that is expected to boost solar development. It requires the Illinois Power Agency to purchase up to $30 million worth of electricity from solar power sources in the state.