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.

Fleet-Management-building

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 260.2-kilowatt photovoltaic array on the Fleet Management Building. Both arrays would be designed to offset up to 100% of each facility’s electrical demand, potentially saving the District up to $50,000 a year in energy costs.

Facilities-Mgmt-building-solar-1000x550

The Blackwell Facilities Management building on Mack Road.

 

Upon completion of the preliminary solar study it was determined that the Facilities Management complex was not recommended for a photovoltaic project due to the invasive nature of the structural reinforcement required to support additional wind loading on the proposed array for the facility at 29W400 Mack Road.

Ariel View of Blackwell Fleet Management building with solar panels installed

 

However, the report did conclude that the Fleet Management Building at 29W222 Mack Rd was still a viable candidate for a photovoltaic project. Certain areas of the roof could not support solar panels due to potential snow drift loading but a majority of the roof could. The roof ultimately could support a 260.2 kW solar array with no additional reinforcement required. Comprised of 532 490 watt panels and 2 100 kW inverters, the proposed array is estimated to produce up to 324,000 kWH annually. The facility currently uses about 290,000 kWH annually which will put estimated energy production up to 110% of existing facility demand.

 The project also includes installing additional snow guards, a level 2 EV charging station and seven OSHA rated roof tie offs so the solar array can be safely inspected and maintained safely and efficiently.

 

Status

Solar array completion pending final commissioning with ComEd, which is expected early winter 2023.

Funding

The cost to design, construct and commission the Blackwell Fleet Management Photovoltaic Project array is approximately $570,000.

The District plans to offset over 60% of the potential costs through multiple financial incentives for solar projects, including Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SREC) and ComEd’s Distributed Generation Rebate (DG) as well as a restricted private donation.

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)