Renewable power sources such as solar photovoltaics (PV) are a key strategy in creating a sustainable energy future. But for most households and businesses, solar panels are out of reach due to high installation costs, technical hurdles, and lack of a suitable installation site. Community shared solar—or simply community solar—overcomes these obstacles by offering all energy consumers a way to tap into collective solar projects in their communities.
The solar suitability map presented on this website was developed by a group of organizations interested in advancing community solar in Cook County. By identifying potential community solar sites and offering related resources, we expect to facilitate the development of as much as 5 MW of community solar annually, benefitting as many as 2,500 residential utility customers while reducing carbon dioxide emissions by up to 5,421 metric tons. The site was designed by Elevate Energy with funding from the Searle Funds at the Chicago Community Trust. The map complements Cook County Solar Market Pathways (see below), a federally-supported initiative intended to jumpstart community solar for the county’s 5.2 million residents.
The solar suitability map is a public platform for municipal planners, property owners, and developers to identify rooftops and parcels of vacant land that can accommodate large solar arrays. While the map is geared to advancing community solar by including only sites with potential capacity of at least 25 kW (approximately 2,500 square feet), it can be used for all solar PV development. To create the map, hundreds of thousands of Cook County properties were analyzed using public data sets. Some 3,000 parcels of land in Cook County were found to be suitable for community solar, along with 45,000 rooftops in the City of Chicago. The dataset for rooftops outside of the City of Chicago is included but not complete. Municipalities interested in submitting their building rooftops GIS data can do so by contacting Elena Savona at .
The map is intended to serve a variety of users. Homeowners and business owners can research the solar potential of their properties and discover how much solar capacity is available in their communities or neighborhoods. Municipal planners can target locations for solar development. Utilities can assess the distribution of solar projects in their territories to predict demand for traditional power sources.
This community solar portal and map was made possible with funding from the Searle Funds at the Chicago Community Trust and the participation of the following partners: