Grant Will Finance Solar Heating Projects at County Highway Garages

Four Cook County Transportation and Highway Department (CCDoTH) facilities will be largely heated through a solar power project financed through a grant accepted by the County’s Board of Commissioners today.

The $295,000 grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation will contribute to the County’s continuing sustainability efforts by reducing reliance on gas-fired units that currently heat the facilities where trucks and road equipment are stored.

“We have set an ambitious goal of reaching an 80 percent reduction in our Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHGs) by the year 2050,” said County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “Through this grant we can eliminate 80 percent of the need to heat these buildings through traditional methods, saving energy and also reducing our heating costs.”

The grant funding will allow the County to install solar walls at CCDoTH garages in Des Plaines, Orland Park, Schaumburg and Riverdale. The solar walls will be constructed vertically and affixed to existing building walls with southern orientations to maximize their ability to harness solar power.

The solar thermal wall will directly convert the sun’s rays into thermal energy, heating air and delivering it to indoor spaces. This is one of the few possible solutions for reducing dependency on traditional natural gas heat for large spaces such as the garages and will directly result in a reduction in the burning of fossil fuels. The project is expected to save the County $47,000 annually and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 457 tons per year.

This direct sun-to-air heating will reduce the amount of heating load now met by the gas-fired unit heaters (GFUHs). Additionally, because the reduced load on the GFUHs will also lessen the current reliance on them, the County will likely see improved service life and lower maintenance costs.

Preckwinkle has made sustainability a key goal for the County since taking office in 2010. The County to date has benchmarked its energy use as a necessary first step toward reductions, is undertaking installation of new efficient heating/cooling units at County buildings, has replaced some of the older cars in its fleet with hybrids, and established policies such as the Demolition Debris Diversion ordinance, which significantly reduces the amount of waste from building demolitions going to landfills.

“Through the initiatives we already have under way, and others like this one, we will continue to make Cook County a national model of sustainability programs that foster both energy efficiency and decrease pollution,” Preckwinkle said.