Learning from the country’s largest urban solar plant

The Chicago Tribune reports on a 40 acre solar power plant on the south side of Chicago, the largest urban solar plant in the United States. While the plant is not very big (generating 10 megawatts), some things I learned that shed light on the broader issue of clean energy:

-Benefits of a plant this size: “The solar plant generates enough electricity to power about 1,500 homes, and its clean power means less greenhouse gases are emitted, the equivalent of taking 2,500 cars off the road each year.”

-Perhaps Chicago is not a bad place to build solar facilities: “The sun in Illinois is more intense than in Japan or Germany, the world’s two largest solar markets.”

-On a national level: “Nationwide, there are more than 22,000 megawatts of large-scale solar projects under development, or enough to power 4.4 million homes.”

-“Green jobs” generated by building solar plants do not necessarily last over time: “Exelon’s West Pullman plant, for example, created about 200 jobs, but only during the six months of construction, he said. “It certainly wasn’t something that went on for years,” Lynch said.”

-Wind power is the main green energy for the near-future in Illinois: “Power companies in the state must get at least 25 percent of their electricity from green sources by 2025. Of that amount, 75 percent must come from wind, while only 6 percent must come from solar”

Summary: this plant has some clear benefits including cleaner energy and construction jobs. But there is a long way to go before solar plants, particularly in urban areas, can generate enough electricity at a reasonable price.

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