The Grove, photo by yooperann on Flickr

“There’s no issue involved in solar or sustainability that can’t be addressed with a little bit of diplomacy. You just have to be patient and love people,” said David Gulyas. 

He should know, as he’s helped oversee numerous sustainability projects at The Residences at the Grove, a condominium community in Forest Park. A LEED accredited professional and member of the Village of Forest Park’s Environmental Control Commission, Gulyas is committed to sustainability, starting at home in his own condo building. The Grove has installed onsite electric vehicle charging stations, started a composting program, and has begun retrofitting more energy efficient windows and swapping out aging air conditioning units with energy efficient heat pumps. But their latest successful victory is subscribing to a community solar program for the building’s communal energy usage. Residents are also signing up for community solar subscriptions for their own individual units.

Seven Generations Ahead’s solar consultant, Mark Burger, helped guide Gulyas and fellow residents through their options to decarbonize the energy used in their common areas. They landed on community solar as the best option, as it allows the building to source its energy from an Illinois-based solar farm that feeds into the energy grid. Community solar provides renewable energy to residential and commercial customers, no onsite solar panels necessary. 

It might seem daunting to get a condo association on board with signing a community solar contract, but Gulyas said residents were eager to act. 

“People are enthusiastic about grabbing at the low hanging fruit solutions of climate change,” he said. And he added, “Almost guaranteeing paying 10-20% less on electricity bills is appealing to everyone.”

The process to get a signed community solar contract involved first putting together a presentation to the condo board, then opening the conversation up to residents so they could understand what community solar is, what the benefits are, and ask questions. Gulyas admitted the process was slow since the condo board only meets once a month. Although Burger recommended looking into Solstice as the Grove’s community solar provider, they also researched other companies to ensure they were getting the best provider for their needs and the most savings. After they had done their due diligence and gotten approval from the Board, they just had to wait for Solstice to open up availability for new subscribers. When that happened, the Grove took the opportunity to sign up for clean, renewable energy.

The Residences at the Grove can provide a blueprint for other condo buildings interested in becoming more sustainable. “We have tens of thousands of condos in Illinois and they’ve been a fairly neglected market for this,” said Burger. “What David and residents have managed to do is turn weaknesses of condo associations into strengths,” Burger added. 

Seven Generations Ahead will continue to support other condos to achieve their sustainability goals. “There are condos out there, and people like David who want to put the work in, but it seems daunting,” said Burger. “We want to make it so it’s not daunting.”

The Residences at the Grove are an example of what can be done when condo residents are committed to going green. Guylas recommends condos start small and demonstrate the feasibility of small projects. Those successes can snowball into bigger, more impactful projects like working toward full electrification, which is what The Grove is doing.

“It can be done,” said Guylas. “You just have to stay positive.” 

If you’re interested in learning more about solar and other sustainability options for your condo building, please contact Mark Burger at solar@sevengenerationsahead.org