Since being selected for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar in Your Community Challenge earlier this year, the PlanItGreen solar team met with leaders of local organizations to help them better understand “the whole concept of solar,” says Gary Cuneen of Seven Generations Ahead, which is spearheading PIG’s solar initiative. The most recent presentation was held for the Communityworks advisory board.

The outreach is aimed at institutions that could possibly accommodate a rooftop solar installation and also those that want to buy solar through power purchase agreements at below conventional market rates. So far the Oak Park Park District has taken the lead on solar, with three installations throughout the village and another in the works.

Solar rooftop on Ridgeland Common Recreation Complex in Oak Park

That focus on solar is getting notice. The Park District of Oak Park recently received a Best of the Best Award for Green Practices from the Illinois Association of Park Districts for it green initiatives, specifically focused on its solar installations. The District’s three solar installations are the 100KW system on top of on the south roof of Ridgeland Common Recreation Complex, the 20 solar panels on Longfellow Center through a partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and a solar array of 19.6 kW at the Austin Gardens Environmental Education Center.

Solar has emerged as the leading alternative energy option as PIG continues to investigate ways toward a more sustainable future. Cuneen and other PlanItGreen Core Team members say the tone of conversations regarding solar energy has shifted. It’s becoming more common to hear people say, “Solar is happening. It’s time to get on board,” Cuneen said. 

Meanwhile, Seven Generations Ahead is launching an initiative to have houses of worship and nonprofit organizations get some or all of their electricity from community solar systems as allowed under the Future Energy Jobs Act. Organizations from Oak Park, River Forest and surrounding communities are invited. To find out more, contact PIG’s solar consultant Mark Burger at