Big Solar for World's Largest Laundromat

April 29, 2003

Photo of solar panels on top of a one-story commercial building with a neon sign that says 'World's Largest Laundromat: Open 24 Hours.'
Illinois's largest solar system opened in time for Earth Day 2003 at the World's Largest Laundromat in Berwyn. (Credit: Solar Service, Inc.)

Photo of four guys smiling for camera in front of solar panels.
Laundry owner Tom Benson (left); Solar Service, Inc. President Brandon Leavitt; Illinois Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn; and Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Affairs Director Jack Lavin attend the inauguration of the new solar system in Berwyn. (Credit: Solar Service, Inc.)

Illinois Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn helped dedicate the state's largest solar system in Berwyn on April 23rd in time for Earth Day 2003. At the ceremony, Quinn told a crowd of 50 attendees, "Developing 'all-American energy' sources like solar power creates jobs for Illinois workers and improves the environment as well."

The solar system was built and installed by Solar Service, Inc. in Niles and provides hot water to the World's Largest Laundromat, which has been operating in Berwyn for 50 years. The laundry operates 145 washing machines and 125 dryers and is open 24 hours a day. Located on the roof of the laundromat, 24 solar collectors displace an average of 1.4 million British Thermal Units of natural gas per day for washing clothes. This represents about 60% of the energy required for heating water at the facility, and conventional gas-fired water heaters provide the remainder. Over the course of a year, the solar system heats 300,000 gallons of cold water to 120°F and, according to Solar Service, is expected to operate for 30 years.

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) provided a grant of $69,130 to the World's Largest Laundromat worth about half of the total cost of the system. The grant came from the Illinois Renewable Energy Resource Fund administered by DCEO paid by electric utility customers statewide. Furthermore, the IRS provides a commercial tax credit and accelerated depreciation for solar installations.

Illinois DCEO estimates that the savings from the system will pay for installation cost (after factoring in all the incentives) in eleven years.

At the dedication, DCEO Director Jack Lavin said, "The 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." DCEO used a small amount of funding from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) State Energy Program to support the project. Also present at the ceremony were members of DOE's Chicago Regional Office, which administers SEP for eight states in the Midwest. For more information about DCEO's involvement in the project, see its April 23rd press release.