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A shining example: Solar plant comes online in Rock Falls

ROCK FALLS – The new solar plant in the Rock Falls Industrial Park is online, an accomplishment celebrated by officials Thursday.

The plant, which sits on 6.5 acres, is part of a demonstration project of the Illinois Municipal Electric Agency and will both supplement the city's electric needs and provide the IMEA with data with how a facility like this will contribute to the city's electrical distribution system.

The facility was built in conjunction with Sol Systems, which since 2008 has delivered one gigawatt of projects throughout the country.

"Rock Falls is a shining example of a project that drives community level investment, creates jobs and diversifies energy supply," said Andrew Grin, Sol senior director of investments.

Grin also said the project would help forge a path to a more secure energy future, a sentiment echoed by state Rep. Tony McCombie.

"The more you start seeing solar facilities pop up, it just shows that we're being proactive and taking renewable energy seriously and understanding that we do have to diversify our wind, our water, our solar with nuclear and coal," McCombie said. "We cannot rely on one source only, and we do have to protect our environment at the same time."

Solar power adds to an energy supply that already includes hydro power and wind power in the area.

"Already the county and this town specifically have power diversity, so that's positive," U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos said. "But I really do look at this through the lens of the vision of Rock Falls. This is thinking ahead. This is thinking about our children. This is thinking about our grandchildren. This is thinking about generations to come."

The facility consists of 3,348 solar panels, each 79 feet by 39 feet and pumping out 10 amps of direct current at 40 volts. The entire array is expected to provide 1,780,200 kilowatt hours each year.

That provides enough power to serve 170 Rock Falls residents.

Construction on the one-megawatt solar plant began in the summer of 2019 and the facility is up and running now. As the sun shined down on Rock Falls Thursday at a ribbon-cutting ceremony, the facility was producing 800 kilowatts.

"It means that the city's moving forward," Rock Falls Electric Director Dick Simon said. "We're not going to stay behind, we want to move forward. We want to be a good model for the electric industry, to do some renewable energy."

Simon said the solar plant will offset 850 tons of carbon each year.

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