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Oak Park Rec Center Brings Solar Energy Democracy to the Community

Approximately 650 solar panels adorn the rooftop of the Oak Park Community Recreation Center
Approximately 650 solar panels adorn the rooftop of the Oak Park Community Recreation Center, a Net Zero building that provides many community resources. (Photo by Windfree Solar).

For more than a year, solar energy has powered community activities, educational opportunities, mental health resources, and more for Oak Park residents at the Park District of Oak Park’s net-zero Community Recreation Center

With the well-being of the Oak Park community in mind, the 42,000-square-foot center features more than 650 solar panels that power the community center and all of its features, including basketball and pickleball courts, community rooms, a fitness center, an e-sports room, a walking/running track, and space for the Community Mental Health Center, among other resources. The impressive solar array, installed by Windfree Solar, is saving Oak Park taxpayers $80,000 in energy costs per year and helping the Park District of Oak Park to educate its community about solar energy and sustainability.

“With this facility serving over 20% of the population in its first year, we have the unique opportunity to reach thousands of people about the sustainable features of this facility through guided tours, interpretive signage and a real-time data dashboard in the lobby showing progress of the facility,” said Chris Lindgren, Superintendent of Parks & Planning for the Park District of Oak Park. “We have hosted local community groups, design professionals, students, and county, state, and national organizations for educational sessions on the Community Recreation Center. Understanding that more of these facilities are needed, we believe it is our duty to share our lessons learned and successes to aid others in their journey to build a net-zero Facility.”

The community center’s solar panels have a 316-kilowatt capacity. Virtually every inch of the building’s roof is covered in panels, while additional panels on the carport and a 75-degree angled awning were strategically designed and installed to maximize energy capture. Also, an onsite battery storage hub has been incorporated to provide power during emergencies such as storms or power outages, ensuring uninterrupted elevator access and true resilience in a long term power outage. 

“Our approach to the Oak Park Community Center demonstrates how versatile and adaptable solar technology can be,” Jack Johannesson, Director of Sales & Business Development for Windfree Solar. “It’s a clear example that solar energy can power a wide range of community resources with the right creativity and planning."

Viewed from above, it is clear to see how solar is helping make an immensely positive impact on Oak Park. 

Oak Park Community Recreation Center rooftop covered in solar panels
The Oak Park Community Recreation Center rooftop is almost completely covered in solar panels, helping the building achieve Net Zero status. (Photo by Windfree Solar)

"The Community Recreation Center in Oak Park exemplifies energy democracy, making clean energy accessible to entire communities.” said Lesley McCain, Executive Director of Illinois Solar Energy and Storage Association. “We are not just saving energy—we are saving taxpayer dollars! Since its opening, the Oak Park Community Recreation Center has highlighted the community’s commitment to sustainability, serving as an ambassador for solar energy and as a model for future developments that can utilize solar energy to achieve a net-zero goal.”


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