FARMINGTON, IL -- Solar energy saves one-third of the large new high school's electric bill here.
That was only one of the facts at the August 8 Solar Energy event at Farmington Central Illinois High School. At one time it was the largest K-12 high school in the U.S. with solar energy.
Now it also serves as as a platform for advocacy for alternative energy. Illinois state Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria, a co-sponsor of a Clean Jobs, Clean Power bill in the Illinois General Assembly, said the nation needs a proposed federal bill to create a level playing field. It also needs the state bill, he said.
The federal bill would demonstrate to China and India that the U,S. is serious about cutting carbon pollution to control climate change, he said.
Illinois aims to reduce carbon emissions by 27 percent by 2030, said Shannon Fulton, of the Illinois Solar Energy Association. The goal will be achieved by energy efficiency, upgrades and renewables.
"Cutting carbon pollution will create new 32,000 jobs, with 1,100 of those in central Illinois, she said.
Battery storage is the key to solar, Koehler said. He chairs the Illinois Senate's Environment and Conservation committee.
Illinois is already a low cost energy state, and exports 25 percent of its energy production elsewhere. It's the second highest producer of wind energy, behind Iowa, he said.
Incentives for wind and solar are ending, he said, and need to be revived. But nothing may happen until the state's budget issues are resolved, he said.
He is determined to protect union, living wage jobs in the fossil fuel industry, he said, despite advocacy for alternatives. " I'm not going to trade collective bargaining for anything," he said.
-- Elaine Hopkins