In March 2004, then-Mayor Richard M. Daley announced a deal that promised to save taxpayer money, reduce natural gas consumption and bring “green” jobs to Chicago.
But taxpayers might see red when they learn how the deal turned out. More than seven years later, the initiative has been quietly suspended amid problems with some of the equipment — and acknowledgements by city officials that taxpayers will probably lose money on the deal and never realize the energy savings that Daley touted, the Better Government Association has learned.
The arrangement centered on solar-powered hot water heating systems made by North Carolina-based Solargenix Energy LLC with technology designed at the University of Chicago.
The city agreed to spend up to $5 million on the eco-friendly systems, and install them on more than 100 public buildings, such as firehouses and police stations, yielding an estimated $7 million in energy savings over 30 years.
In exchange for that commitment — and an additional $1.7 million no-interest loan through the Daley administration — Solargenix agreed to open a factory in Chicago, employing at least 15 workers, and build the solar equipment there.