Blackwell Solar Studies

Planning Project

Project Description

The District’s master plan prioritizes various green initiatives Districtwide, including solar power and increasing sustainability, to reduce the District’s carbon footprint, its reliance on fossil fuels, reduce energy costs and improve the environment and quality of life for all living things.

In 2020 the District installed a solar power system on the cart storage building at The Preserve at Oak Meadows in Addison. The solar arrays produce enough electricity to fully power the facility’s 75 golf carts, making The Preserve the first golf course in the U.S. with a fully solar-powered golf car fleet. It also installed a solar power system on the species recovery building at Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn, which is expected to offset nearly 30% of Willowbrook’s electrical demand and save the District up to $8,000 annually over the next 25 years or more.

In an effort to continue this momentum, the District studied other facilities with potential for solar power. The Fleet Management and Facilities Management buildings, located at Blackwell Forest Preserve near West Chicago, are headquarters to staff who manage District’s award-winning fleet of alternative fuel vehicles as well as all District facilities countywide.


The Fleet Management building on the north side of Mack Road at Blackwell Forest Preserve.


Staff has determined that these buildings are good candidates for solar power based on electric demand, roof construction type, age and orientation. To further evaluate their feasibility, the District has hired an engineering services firm to develop solar photovoltaic arrays in three phases.

  • Phase I: Conduct a detailed analysis to determine the feasibility of the improvements.
  • Phase 2: If feasible, develop permit and construction drawings and documents for installation.
  • Phase 3: Construct and install the improvements.

The Blackwell solar study may lead to the most ambitious solar projects yet for the District with a potential of 110-kilowatt photovoltaic array on the Facilities Management building, and a 252-kilowatt photovoltaic array on the Fleet Management Building. Both arrays would be designed to offset 100% of each facility’s electrical demand, potentially saving the District up to $50,000 a year in energy costs.


The Blackwell Facilities Management building on Mack Road.



The District’s consultant is currently in phase 1 of the project, and the findings of phase 1 will determine the extent of the solar arrays and budgeting needs. Upon approval by the board, the project is expected to be designed and permitted in 2021 and constructed in 2022.


The Blackwell Facilities Management building on Mack Road.



The cost to construct and install these solar power systems is estimated at approximately $1,030,000.

The District plans to offset potential costs through multiple financial incentives for solar projects, including Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SREC) and ComEd’s Distributed Generation Rebate (DG). The consultant will identify available funding in the phase I of the study.

The total project cost will be estimated in phase 1 and must be budgeted before proceeding with phase 2 and 3 work. Phase 1 will also determine what rebates and credits may be available through various programs. In addition, a restricted private donation will assist funding the design phases of the project. The remainder of the project will likely be funded through the Forest Preserve District’s yearly appropriated construction and development funds.


Feb. 23, 2021 board presentation on Blackwell solar studies (PDF)