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Illinois is hosting a statewide Solar Tour. The event is completely free and there is no registration required.Stop on by the Southwestern region and you will find 5 StraightUp Solar projects.  We would like to thank the Belleville News Democrat for featuring two of these.


Metro-East Home and Business Tour Highlights Solar Energy

News-DemocratOctober 2, 2014

A home and a business in Swansea will be on display Saturday for those interested in learning about solar-powered energy.

Computer programming company and the home of Swansea resident Nick Hilpipre will be two of 70 sites to host open houses across the state as part of the Illinois Solar Tour. Visitors can see for themselves how Illinois homes and businesses are using solar, wind, and geothermal in this free, self-guided tour from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Hilpipre purchased his home in May 2013 and had solar panels installed earlier this year. The Swansea resident’s house at 2 Holly Ridge Court is solely powered by electricity. He also drives a Chevrolet Volt, which can be powered by electricity and recharged from inside his garage.

Hilpipre’s panels are under a 25-year warranty and are expected to operate long after that. His 10-kilowatt system generates electricity for his 4,000-square-foot home, which also taps into a special program that helps customers to track their hourly electricity usage online and conserve energy during peak hours.

He also had a net meter installed at his house that permits reverse flow of any excess electricity that Hilpipre’s solar panels generate to go back to the grid. He signed an interconnection agreement with Ameren stating that he would provide the utility with any excess electricity. The program is complex, Hilpipre said, but it essentially credits him with any electricity that he gives back and helps drive down his utility bill.

Hilpipre said that after two summers he has witnessed a noticeable savings on his energy bills.

“My monthly electricity bill this summer over the last year’s electric bills are lower,” Hilpipre said. “The first summer, it cost about $90 a month. Now it’s probably $10 to $15 a month.”

After solar panels were installed at the office at 33 Bronze Pointe, located off North Illinois Street in Swansea, the company has produced approximately 13,000 kilowatt hours of energy a year, which is the equivalent of an average residential home’s electric usage. These panels have saved the business approximately $1,300 a year on its electricity bill.

“We are experiencing savings in energy cost by having those panels on the roof,” said company chief financial officer Dave Levinson. “We have been extremely happy with the system and its performance.”

Both and Hilpipre took advantage of state and federal rebates in order to afford the panels and installation. Hilpipre said his panels and installation cost $40,000 before the rebates. The rebates cut that cost in half. He has been told that the pay back for his investment will be realized in 10 to 12 years.

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity administers an annual 25 percent to 40 percent state solar and wind rebate program. All Ameren Illinois electric and gas customers are eligible. According to, the cost of solar equipment is dropping by 15 percent a year to go along with federal and state incentives.

St. Louis-based StraightUp Solar installed the solar panel systems at and Hilpipre’s home. The company also has completed installations at McKendree University in Lebanon and America’s Central Port in Granite City and Madison. Financing is available at 0 percent same as cash for 12 months. Low interest loans and mortgage home loans are also available.

Aside from the 25 percent to 40 percent rebate for Illinois customers, the company can also help clients with a 30 percent Solar Federal Tax Credit on installations. Customers lock in a 5 cents per kilowatt hour rate. That is lower than the current utility rates, which range from 8 cents to 12 cents per kilowatt hour and will likely increase by 5 percent each year. This also creates a tax-free return on the home or business owner’s investment and can help increase their property value by $10,000 to $50,000, according to StraightUp Solar.

StraightUp Solar also says Illinois is poised to become one of the top 10 solar markets in the nation following the a solar renewable energy credit that was passed by state lawmakers in June. The law that goes into effect next year will allow solar system owners to sell their green energy value to The Illinois Power Agency, which must ensure that utilities achieve 25 percent renewable energy production by 2025 to meet Illinois’ renewable portfolio standard law. This is in addition to a 30 percent federal income tax credit that is available through 2016.

Contact reporter Will Buss at or 618-239-2526.

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