Eric Heineman, CEO of Windfree Solar, is enthusiastic about solar power. And he’s eager to convert as many houses in Logan Square as possible, brazen enough to leave one of his custom door hangers on Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s front door. He tried to, that is, before her house-security detail gave us a polite but stern “Nu-uh”.
As the former sustainability director for the State of Illinois under Governor Pat Quinn, Heineman knows about timing and strategy.
“Sunday afternoons are the best times for the press to approach a politician at home. Plus, I have friends in the area that have been to cookouts at her house,” Heineman said. “We’ll make it happen.”
It was easy to follow a fellow Eric up to her house, a one-man marketing machine in his electric car, with examples of solar panels for people to hold in their hands.
Photos: Erik Island
Solar power isn’t a new idea. President Jimmy Carter had 32 solar panels installed on the roof of the White House in 1978, only to be removed by President Regan in 1986. According to Dale Petroskey, President Reagan’s press secretary, “Putting them back up would be very unwise, based on cost, he said in, per Yale Climate Connections.
The oil shortage of the ’70s had ended, and America’s attention turned away from climate change. And so began the suppression of solar power, as explained in the documentary “A Road Not Taken” by Christina Hemauer and Roman Keller and lampooned by “The Simpsons.”
“I have no doubt that we will be successful in harnessing the sun’s energy. … If sunbeams were weapons of war, we would have had solar energy centuries ago.”Sir George Porter, 1973
Slowly but surely, however, solar power and wind power have been making a comeback in popularity. According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) report, “Renewable energy, including solar and wind, provided 23% of US electricity generation during April, compared with coal’s 20%.”
Windfree Solar has been busy installing solar panels across Illinois: Windfree Solar currently employs 22 workers who installed over 2,000 kW of solar power in 2018. Since its founding in 2009, the company has completed more than 400 certified installations, including solar panels on the Governor’s Mansion while Governor Quinn was in office. There are a great many solar-power-related jobs and tax incentives available to Illinois as well.
The company’s first installment took place 10 years ago at Burr Elementary School in Chicago’s Bucktown-Wicker Park neighborhood. The cost was less than $12,000 for installation, plus a wind turbine and solar panels. Since then, the company has installed solar in several Chicago neighborhoods and suburbs.
In 2016, Windfree Solar installed solar panels at the not-so-new anymore “L” luxury apartments (2211 N. Milwaukee Ave.) that have a CTA car inside them. Heineman said the panels are 16.8 kW Thin Film system, which is one of the more advanced newer technology that the company uses when customers don’t want to puncture their roof with attachments (this just sticks on). It is the same efficiency as traditional solar PV.
Photos: Windfree Solar
“Every 24 hours, enough sunlight touches the Earth to provide the energy for the entire planet for 24 years.”(Martha Maeda, How to Solar Power Your Home)
Other business in Logan also have invested in solar panels. Take, for example, Father and Son’s delivery truck: The mobile pizza truck has solar panels on top that help it deliver its popular pizzas and other food.
While doing my own research, I asked Heineman about the lawsuit between Walmart, Inc. and Tesla Inc. In late August, Walmart sued for a breach of contract and gross negligence after rooftop solar panel systems on seven of the retailer’s stores allegedly caught fire, according to a filing. But just three days after the lawsuit was filed, the two parties appear to be trying to work things out.
“The press love to rag on Tesla, mostly because it’s easy to do,” Heineman said. “Solar installations generally are safe, and we have never had a fire from an installation that we installed since we were founded in 2009. The Solar industry in Illinois is highly regulated and we have to pass many local inspections and utility approvals to install every project.”
There’s so much information about solar power and it’s future, and Windfree Solar is a great place to start.
You can contact Eric Heineman through his website, Windfree.us or call for a free evaluation at (312)-588-6953.
Or talk to him in person at the Whiskey Acres Distilling Co. Networking Event on Sept. 28.
Featured Photo: Erik Island