A solar thermal system installed on a Laundromat in Illinois can provide up to 1,200 gallons of 120 degree water a day to its 145 washing machines.Berwyn, Illinois – April 14, 2003 [SolarAccess.com] A solar thermal system installed on a laundromat in Illinois can provide up to 1,200 gallons of 120 degree water a day to the businesses’ 145 washing machines. This new solar hot water system, which produces more energy than any other solar system in the state, is installed at a large laundromat at 6240 W. Cermak in Berwyn, Illinois, where it saves 1.4 million BTUs of natural gas each day (equivalent to 281 kWh). The installation will be dedicated by state and local officials on Wednesday, April 23 at 10 a.m. to celebrate Earth Day. “This project demonstrates how, using solar technology, a business can harness the power of the sun to reduce energy consumption and operate a business more efficiently,” said Jack Lavin, Director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO). The State of Illinois offers many incentives for solar energy systems including a 50 percent rebated up to US$5,000 and 50 percent grants up to US$150,000. There is also a Commercial Tax Credit up to US$25,000 per year and 5-year Accelerated Depreciation Tax Deductions for all business use of solar energy equipment, up to US$24,000 per year. The laundromat received a US$69,130 matching grant from the Renewable Energy Resources fund administered by DCEO. The system, which consists of 24 solar collector panels on the roof, each measuring 4 ft. by 10 ft., is installed at the 50-year-old “World’s Largest Laundromat and Dry Cleaners” (the actual name of the business). This 13,000 sq. ft. self- service laundry has 145 washing machines which was a major deciding factor for the application and integration of a solar thermal unit. “I decided to go solar when the gas crisis of the winter of 2001 created an energy cost crunch that made me look for an alternative,” said Thomas Benson, the laundry’s owner. “Solar was by far the best choice. Even as gas prices continue to rise, my solar hot water system will enable me to maintain lower prices for my customers.” Based on DCEO calculations, which include state and federal incentives, this project is expected to pay for itself in approximately 11 years. Some systems pay for themselves in less than five years, depending on fuel savings and financing. The solar system is the primary supplier of hot water for the laundry and acts as a pre-heater to the existing water heater. The system can heat 1,200 gallons a day (over 300,000 gallons annually) of cold water to 120. F or more, thereby saving thousands of dollars a year in energy costs. The system is maintenance-free, totally automatic, and has a design life of over 30 years. “Whether it’s a laundromat, apartment building, or single-family home, solar’s time has come. It’s affordable, clean, reliable, and it’s available,” said Brandon Leavitt, President of Solar Service Inc., the Niles company that installed the laundromat’s system. Solar Service has designed and installed hundreds of systems in Chicagoland since 1977, including similar, smaller systems at four other laundries. “Electricity, gas, and oil expenses never end, and their prices always increase, but solar pays for itself over and over again. Solar heating and hot water systems pay for themselves faster than any other form of energy,” said Leavitt.