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Local

Lee County approves 5 solar farm projects, 3 more on tap

DIXON – Five more solar farm projects were OK'd by the county, and another three proposals are lined up.

The County Board recently approved two special use permits for solar farms from California-based FFP IL Community Solar LLC as well as three from Virginia-based Summit Ridge Energy.

For FFP, one is a 2-megawatt solar farm project to be built on 16 aces on Paw Paw Road in Willow Creek Township, and the other would be on about 19 acres in the same area. The company is leasing the land from Kirk and Michelle Burnett on about 68 and 63 acres they own, respectively.

The Zoning Board gave a recommendation to deny the 19-acre proposal Aug. 2 in a 3-2 vote because it would take away highly productive, tillable soil that’s already being farmed.

It's the second solar farm the board gave an unfavorable recommendation for because of soil quality and production value, and the County Board went against the recommendations both times.

Board members approved the solar farm in a 12-9 vote last week.

The county has a Land Evaluation Site Assessment score, which gauges the richness of farmland in the county and restricts what can be built on prime soil, but the county's solar farm ordinance states that the LESA score cannot be the sole factor for granting solar farm development.

Board member Allyn Buhrow said there's a lot of opportunity for solar farms in the county, and they need to take in account that land might be rated high but hard to farm for landowners.

Summit Ridge’s three proposals were made by three landowners.

Harold Wiggins' solar farm proposal was for about 20.7 acres of the 135-acre property at 1572 U.S. Route 52 in Dixon; John Lahman is proposing about 20 acres of a 42-acre property at 1848 Reynolds Road in Franklin Grove; and Lawrence Crawford is proposing two systems on about 38 acres of a 150-acre property at 1658-1672 Red Brick Road in Dixon.

Summit Ridge has another proposal that will go to the Zoning Board on Sept. 6, and it will likely face opposition by the Dixon City Council because it's right next to city limits.

It would be a 2-megawatt solar farm built on about 21 acres owned by Marvin Gerdes at 1675 Pump Factory Road in South Dixon Township.

Two more proposals going to the Zoning Board, before a final vote by the County Board Sept. 18, are by Trajectory Energy Partners LLC for 2-megawatt systems.

One would be on 17 acres owned by Garth and Linda Dallam in Lee Center Township north of Shaw Road and west of Inlet Road, and the other would be on 17 acres owned by Gail and Jan Dallam in Amboy Township northwest of Lee Center Road and southwest of Inlet Road.

Zoning Administrator Chris Henkel said none of the solar projects are set in stone; companies are lining up projects and lease agreements, but development will depend on getting picked out of a competitive lottery.

The solar boom was created with the Future Energy Jobs Act in late 2016, which requires utility companies to get 25 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2025 and includes incentives for energy companies.

NEXT MEETING

The Lee County Zoning Board of Appeals will meet at 7 p.m. Sept. 6 in the third-floor board room of the Old Lee County Courthouse, 112 E. Second St.

The agenda will be posted at leecountyil.com 2 days before the meeting.

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