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Zoning Board gives sunny recommendation for solar farm

DIXON – The Lee County Zoning Board gave a sunny recommendation for the proposed 760-acre solar farm in Steward Friday, and the project will go to the County Board for a final vote.

Junction Solar LLC is petitioning the county for a special-use permit to build the solar farm between Herman and Reynolds roads in Alto and Reynolds townships on about 760 acres of farmland owned by Larry and Julie Gittleson and Midwest Ag Investors LLC.

Junction Solar is an offshoot of Minnesota-based Geronimo Energy, which owns the Green River Wind Farm that spans more than 13,000 acres in Lee and Whiteside counties.

The 100-megawatt solar farm would be one of the largest developments in the Midwest, and the company estimates it could generate $8.8 million in property tax revenue across 20 years.

The Zoning Board outlined a lengthy list of findings and facts Friday based on about 5-and-a-half hours of testimony during two previous meetings and voted unanimously in favor of the project.

Board member Mike Pratt emphasized that their decision is not based on any increase or decrease in revenue that a project might have, and that that’s a matter for the County Board to consider.

The findings included that the panels would have an anti-reflective coating, pollinator-friendly grass would be planted, existing drainage tile would be maintained or replaced if damaged, and the development must comply with the county’s solar ordinance as well as state and federal laws.

The company will also be required to enter into a road use agreement with the county and an agricultural impact mitigation agreement with the Illinois Department of Agriculture that protects land during construction and decommissioning.

It would be a $121 million project, with the company estimated to spend about $14 million in the state and create around 120 construction jobs and five to eight full-time jobs.

The County Board is scheduled to vote on the proposal May 21.

If approved, construction would take 6 to 12 months to complete.


The Lee County Board will meet at 6 p.m. May 21 in the third-floor board room of the Old Lee County Courthouse, 112 E. Second St.

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

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