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Solar energy services company expects to bring ‘hundreds’ of jobs to new Greater Peoria branch

221019 Sunrun 1.jpg
Joe Deacon
/
WCBU
Nakhia Crossley, Sunrun senior manager of public policy, speaks Wednesday during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the solar energy services provider's new East Peoria branch.

A national solar energy company aims to bring hundreds of permanent jobs to the Peoria area over the next few years.

Sunrun, which touts itself as a leading provider of residential solar, battery storage and energy services, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday for its new branch office on High Point Lane, along the Interstate 74 corridor in East Peoria.

Nakhia Crossley, Sunrun's senior manager of public policy, said expanding to the Peoria market bolsters its commitment to bring green-energy careers to the state while expanding access to solar energy to more central Illinois households.

“We came to Illinois in 2017, and we've been heavily invested ever since,” said Crossley, who noted Sunrun’s workforce in the state expanded to more than 500 employees at its branches in Des Plaines and Bolingbrook in just four years.

“We hope to see projections pretty much that align with that,” she said. “Over time, we'll have hundreds of new employees here that will range from installers, permit techs, licensing techs, project managers, engineers. We will have a whole host of employees here who will help us to serve the customer base.”

Among a host of elected officials attending the ceremony were East Peoria Mayor John Kahl, Peoria Mayor Rita Ali, and State Rep. Jehan-Gordon Booth, who credited the state's Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA) passed last year for paving the way for Sunrun’s expansion.

“We're honored to have Sunrun operating in our region, to do some of the work that we know is so important to really continue to put Illinois as a leader in this clean energy jobs space,” she said. “We know that these are jobs for the future. We know that these jobs are not going anywhere anytime soon, and to have Illinois as a leader in that space is something that, frankly, we all can be incredibly proud of.”

Ali said Sunrun’s arrival represents a major economic boost for Greater Peoria while also emphasizing a healthier environment.

“This is a real opportunity for our region in terms of putting people to work and jobs that pay family sustaining wages,” she said. “Illinois is the national leader in solar now, and it's going to increase. So to have it right here in our region and to have a company that serves customers within our region is outstanding.”

Kahl said making solar energy more accessible to central Illinois homeowners is a positive step.

“You look at energy costs today, you kind of see where everything's headed in the direction of clean, renewable energies, and here's one more opportunity for people here to take advantage of what they offer,” he said.

221019 Sunrun 2.jpg
Joe Deacon
/
WCBU
Sunrun company representatives and elected officials participate in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the solar energy services provider's new East Peoria branch on Wednesday.

“It's a big day for central Illinois; this isn't just about East Peoria. The exciting part was talking to the employees that are given this opportunity here and what a big deal that is,” said Kahl. “Anytime you get a new business to come in, that's a big deal. But a business model like this, we don't have anything of its kind here.”

Although the outside temperature was a bit chilly, the cascading sunlight underscored the new branch’s desired impact.

“The cost of living has gone up due to oil, gas and natural gas and coal, and the cost of sunlight — as you'll see today — is the same as always been: zero,” said Markus Pitchford, central region director for the Solar Energy Industries Association. “This will allow for families to reduce the energy costs and also cut pollution at the same time.

“Going solar lets families and businesses take control of their cost of living. It also will add $1 billion over the next 10 years here in Illinois. We have over 18,000 renewable energy jobs today, and the number is growing.”

Crossley admitted the CEJA legislation played a significant role in Sunrun’s decision to expand into the Peoria market.

“The Climate and Equitable Jobs Act was a huge undertaking an effort by so many members of the Illinois General Assembly, solar and wind advocates, renewable energy advocates, environmental advocates,” said Crossley. “Illinois has been really invested in reaching a climate goal of zero carbon (emissions) by 2050, so they're on the right track.”

State Sen. Dave Koehler echoed CEJA’s significance on encouraging growth among green energy businesses.

“First of all, climate change is real, and secondly, solar energy is real, and we see that there's an expansion of solar energy in Illinois just because of the incentives we passed with the CEJA bill,” Koehler said following the ceremony. “So this is just part of that, and so to have a company like Sunrun come here to set up shop and to hire folks and to go out and sell solar to folks is just part of the plan. We're so excited that they're here.”

Kyle Barber, the instructor of Illinois Central College’s solar program, said having Sunrun in the region also opens up more local opportunities for his students.

“It also brings a good partnership with the training that we're giving to the people that they're looking to hire,” said Barber. “When I first started teaching the program five years ago, there wasn't a lot of jobs here in central Illinois for my graduates. We brought the class here today so they can see firsthand what the transition is looking like. We're excited about the opportunities that this brings.”

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Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.