Boone County solar farm

February 29, 2012

By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl
President and Vice President, Illinois Renewable Energy Association

At their Feb. 15 meeting, the Planning and Zoning Commission for the Village of Cherry Valley considered the request to rezone a 180-acre parcel of land from agriculture to industrial use to accommodate a proposed solar farm. Land owner Florian Guski and Jennifer L. Anderson of Anderson environmental and engineering described the project.

Using her experience, Anderson pointed out that there were no significant adverse environmental impacts from the solar farm project near the Chicago Rockford International Airport. She was confident the Boone County site would involve few environmental impacts as well.

The solar farm would be fenced and the west side planted with trees to reduce the visual impact of the panels. Guski pointed out the panels would be low to the ground, unlike wind turbines.

The proposed solar farm would be constructed in three phases, with projected costs of up to $30 million per phase. Each phase would consist of 30 MW for a total installation of 90 MW. It was estimated that each 10 MW would provide enough electricity to supply 4,000 homes with power.

An advantage of building the solar farm at that location is the nearby ComEd power line, which would provide a low-cost point of connection.

The solar farm would be adjacent to the 92-home East Valley subdivision. Three citizens raised questions regarding the project, as it would abut their property. They were concerned about possible adverse impacts on their property values. One expressed concern that the presence of the solar farm would disrupt the view he enjoys now from his back yard. Another asked if a berm could be built as a means to obscure seeing the solar farm. A third expressed the concern that if the land were rezoned from agriculture to industry and the solar farm were not built, other industrial interests even less to his liking might seek approval to build on the land.

A fourth person who teaches solar energy classes at Rock Valley College spoke in favor of the project.

Several other attendees did not speak in the formal session but expressed their views that the solar farm belonged somewhere else. The 10 MW solar farm on the abandoned factory site around the former West Pullman site south of Chicago was cited as an appropriate location for one. They felt similar sites could be found in this area.

A common concern was whether the presence of the solar farm would adversely affect property values of adjacent homes. Since no one had any information about the impact of solar farms on residential property values, it was recommend such information be sought by citizens through Internet searches and reported to the committee.

The commission voted to table the proposed zoning change until the next scheduled meeting so they could gather more information regarding the project details and its potential impact on property values of the adjacent subdivision.

No opposition to PV was raised, just opposition to the proposed location. As more large solar farms are proposed, opposition to sites seems inevitable.

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are founders and officers of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA) and coordinate the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. E-mail sonia@essex1.com.

From the Feb. 29-March 6, 2012, issue

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