Solar Schools Grant Program
Under Cook County's Solar Schools Grant program, the Cook County Department of Environment and Sustainability (DES) awards funds to be used in public schools located throughout Chicago and Suburban Cook County to teach students how sunlight is converted to energy. The Cook County Solar Schools Grant provides supplemental funding to grantees of the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation’s (ICECF) K-12 Solar Schools Program, a program that supports the installation of 1kW photovoltaic (PV) systems throughout Illinois institutions serving grades K-12.
The maximum award per school through the program is up to $5,000. Preference for this program will be given to Title 1 schools (Title-1 school-wide funded and Title-1 school-wide eligible schools) which will incorporate clean energy into their curriculum. Applications for both programs can be completed online and will ask for the same information. In addition, schools must subsequently submit the award letter from ICECF’s K-12 Solar Schools Program in order to become eligible for funding through the Cook County Solar Schools Grant. Once a school is deemed eligible, they will enter an agreement with the County to be paid the award (up to $5,000) upon installation of the system.
About Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation’s K-12 Solar Schools Program
ICECF’s K-12 Solar Schools Program supports the construction of small PV systems which are used as an educational tool that allows students to see first-hand how sunlight is converted into electricity while simultaneously monitoring online the amount of electricity generated. ICECF requires its grantees to commit to incorporating solar and renewable energy into its STEM curriculum and requires grantees to host “Solarbrations” to celebrate and unveil their PV system for their school community. Eligible applicants of the Foundation’s program may apply for up to 90% of the system and its installation costs or $6,400, whichever is less. Additional information about ICECF can be found on their website.
Cook County Schools Program Eligibility
To receive supplemental funding through the Cook County Solar Schools program, applicants must:
- Serve the K-12 population in Cook County, Illinois
- Be a recognized public school by the IL State Board of Education (ISBE)
- Be a grantee of the IL Clean Energy Foundation’s K-12 Solar Schools Program
Preference will be given to Title-1 school-wide funded and Title-1 school-wide eligible schools. Schools must show proof of this designation for the current school year. Funding will be awarded first come, first served, so please turn in your applications as soon as possible.
At this time, Chicago Public Schools are not eligible for ICECF's K-12 Solar Schools Program and therefore are not eligible for this matching grant program.
Under the initiative, the Cook County Solar Schools program will award up to $5,000 per school including:
- Up to 10% of the remaining costs of the 1kW PV system, not covered by Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, including supplies, installation and labor, not to exceed $2,000
- An award of up to $1,500 to the school for the purposes of setting up an operations and maintenance fund for the PV system to ensure its long-term operation for the school community
- Up to $1,500 towards the costs of the Solarbration, training resources related to renewable energy, and/or signage for the installation. Click here for potential curriculum and Solarbration ideas
Click here for detailed information about the grant process.
After the duration of one year, Cook County Department of Environment and Sustainability will require schools who are awarded the funds to submit a funding report outlining the success of the program and identifying how the funds were spent.
A webinar was held in January 2021 to help answer questions about the ICECF and Cook County Solar Schools grant programs. Watch the recording of this webinar here.
Special Repair Fund for Previous ICECF Grantees
The Cook County Solar Schools program will also award small repair grants to previous grantees of the ICECF’s K-12 Solar Schools Program to bring non-functioning or underperforming solar arrays back online. In order to receive funds, schools must meet the above eligibility criteria from Cook County Schools. Cook County DES will work directly with school leadership and ICECF to identify costs related to repairs and to issue grant awards. Eligible schools may apply for an award up to $5,000, although the typical award amount will be in the $1,000 - $2,000 range.
Email questions about the special repair funds to email@example.com.