Sun-drenched: Solar panels cover the Ridgeland Common Recreation Complex. | Provided photo by Realgy LLC

The Park District of Oak Park Board of Commissioners is expected to approve a new lease agreement that would more than double the amount of electricity the Ridgeland Common Recreation Complex generates from the sun.

The new lease agreement will supersede a lease agreement the park district signed with Realgy Energy Services, an electric utility company based in West Hartford, Connecticut, two years ago. 

Except for the addition of two more solar panels atop the Ridgeland Common and the duration of the lease, the two agreements are largely the same. The park district’s board is expected to vote to approve the new lease on Nov. 1. 

In 2016, Realgy reached out to the park district about putting two solar panels on Ridgeland Common’s roof. In approving the initial deal, the park district agreed to purchase electricity for Ridgeland Common which is not generated by the solar panels from Realgy. In exchange, Realgy installed and maintains the panels.

During the park board’s Oct. 18 meeting, park district Executive Director Jan Arnold told the commissioners that they wound up getting more solar power than originally expected. 

“We projected at the time that [the savings] would be around $7,000 [a year],” she said. “We’re happy to report we’re current saving $25,000 annually.”

So when Realgy offered to install two more panels, the park district was interested.

While the original two panels were a 100-kilowatt system, the two new panels will add another 150 kilowatts. Together, the solar panels are expected to generate more than twice as much solar power than before. That, in turn, would save the park district $60,000 annually. 

According to Arnold, adding the new panels would cover about 30 percent of RCRC’s energy needs.

The original lease agreement was set for eight years. The new agreement will last just as long, terminating June 30, 2027 at the earliest. 

Board Vice President Sandy Lentz wondered whether the roof would be able to handle the weight of two extra solar panels, but Arnold assured her that both the park district and the village looked into it, and neither found any issues.

Board President Victor Guarino wondered how much power the park district gets from solar panels overall.

“It would be nice to get total savings on our total inventory for solar and publicize that, and what percentage of [park district’s overall] electric bill is provided by solar,” he said. “There are groups of people who could care less about trees and [care about] how much they’re saving.”

Arnold said that she didn’t have the exact numbers at the moment, but called the Ridgeland Common Recreation Complex is one of the “larger” solar power contributors. Arnold said the staff will look into the matter, as well as how much the park district is saving in water bills by recycling rain water.

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Igor Studenkov

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Growing Community Media newspapers in 2012, then from 2015...