As solar panels baked in the sunlight on his warehouse rooftop, Eric Simon smiled from behind his sunglasses. The bar graph on his phone app edged higher to show the new solar system generating enough power to run the huge building beneath his feet.
The stream of sunlight knocked electrons free from atoms in the dark blue silicon, creating a flow of nearly 2 megawatts of electricity, enough to operate the family-run Michael Lewis Company facility in southwest suburban McCook. The four-story warehouse, covering an area equal to seven football fields, sucks up a lot of juice to cool freezers filled with food used by the airline industry.
For years, the Simon family had wanted their company to go solar, but it was never quite worth the investment until Illinois began providing subsidies under a new state law, the Future Energy Jobs Act, or FEJA.
“FEJA made the difference,” Simon said. “FEJA made it possible to do the right thing.”
The program, which subsidizes renewable energy, has prompted a rash of proposals to build solar farms on rooftops and in farm fields across the state, including in the collar counties around Chicago.