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Company aims to develop first solar farm in Lee County

DIXON – A California company wants to build the county’s first solar farm on about 126 acres in Lee Center Township.

Borrego Solar Systems Inc. is requesting a special-use permit from Lee County to build a solar farm on farmland off of Shaw Road between Inlet and Green Wing roads.

The solar arrays would take up about 13.7 acres, spanning 249 strings with 26 solar modules per string, according to the permit request.

The project will go to the Zoning Board on Thursday, and its members will make a recommendation to the County Board.

Steps already have been taken to pave the way for solar development – in December, the county approved an ordinance regulating solar farm development and outlining expectations for the construction, installation, operation and decommission of solar energy systems.

“Any time the county can hope for revenue, we’ve got to do it,” Board Chairman Jim Wentling said in December. “We have to be ready for the companies that come here.”

According to the project narrative, the company is requesting the special-use permit “for development of a 2MW ground-mounted distributed generation solar farm facilities on an existing farmland parcel of approximately 126 acres located on the north side of Shaw Road between Inlet and Green Wing Road. The built improvement area for the one array fields is approximately 13.7 acres.”

The solar project is one of several being proposed across the Sauk Valley by a handful of energy companies looking to land new renewable energy incentives in Illinois, including 15-year contracts with utility providers, rebates and tax credits available come summer.

Whiteside County passed a solar farm ordinance in April and is in talks with Minnesota-based IPS Solar, which wants to build a solar farm on about 105 acres of closed landfill property at 18762 Lincoln Road and on 20 more acres across U.S. Route 30, behind the county Highway Department.

“The potential for our region in renewable energy is enormous, and it’s something we have to tap into,” said Gary Camarano, Whiteside County economic development director.

In December, the Bureau County Board approved conditional-use permits for a $31 million Hoover Solar LLC farm, which will be built on 313 acres in the northwestern part of the county, near New Bedford, by developer Cypress Creek Renewables of Santa Monica, California.

Cypress Creek also wants to build a 20-megawatt solar energy farm on 200 acres of land south of Town Line Road, near Forreston in Ogle County.

The Dixon Municipal Airport and the Whiteside County Airport also have been approached by solar farm companies.

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