For the last few years, CUB has helped organize a “solar group buy program” in the Chicago region–now called “Solar Switch”–and these programs have helped save participants an average of about $820 a year on their utility bills, according to CUB’s partner in the program, Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA). Today we’re backing up a bit to cover what exactly is a group buy program and how does it work?
A group buy program uses the power of bulk purchasing to make a product more accessible and affordable for customers. You often can get better prices on items if you buy in bulk–but for certain products, say solar panels, it’s much too expensive and impractical for an individual to do that. Instead, a group buy program gathers as many people as possible interested in going in on a bulk purchase to make it a better deal for everyone. This is the power of a group buy program, such as Solar Switch, which organizes people interested in solar panels into one bigger group for more purchasing power.
The Solar Switch group buy program is a partnership of CUB, the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) and several Chicagoland counties: Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake and Will.
Solar group buy programs are educational–they allow participants to learn more about solar energy– and, since the cost of going solar is cheaper when more people buy, individual consumers save on the total cost of going solar. For example, the Solar Switch program that was launched in the summer of 2023 secured a price of $2.75 per watt, when the average price in Illinois was about $3.16 per watt, according to Solar Sage.
This lower cost of a group buy program empowers residents who might not have been able to make the transition to solar energy before to take the plunge now and help the communities where they live move closer to their climate goals.
Bob K., a Dundee resident, participated in a CUB solar group buy program in 2020, and his savings were significant. Bob was interested in solar panels for several years before taking the plunge. The program’s Solar Power Hour presentation helped him learn the practical steps to going solar and secure a good installation deal thanks to the volume purchasing discount and rebates.
“The system should pay for itself completely in about five to six years,” Bob said in a 2022 year interview with CUB. “For eight months out of the year last year my electric bill was $0—even factoring in charging for an electric vehicle.”
Bob recommended getting multiple installer bids to compare prices, as he did. In the end, the group buy program was better than any other offer he reviewed. “CUB’s group buy program was the best deal I found and very helpful in learning about the switch to solar,” said Bob.
If you’re interested in CUB’s solar group buy program partnership, the Fall round is opening soon. Visit solarswitch.com/Chicagoland/ to learn more.