Rock Falls chosen for IMEA solar project
ROCK FALLS – Rock Falls is one of three Illinois Municipal Electric Agency member cities chosen by the nonprofit trade organization to have solar capabilities added to its power distribution systems.
Construction will begin this summer on a 1-megawatt system in the industrial park behind the city’s electric department. Altamont and Naperville were the other cities chosen to host the projects.
The City Council on Tuesday approved the construction agreement between IMEA and the city. An easement agreement also was OK’d to give the agency access to the facility. The votes on both were 5-to-1, with 3rd Ward Alderman Rod Kleckler opposing the pacts.
“I have nothing against solar energy, but that’s 6.5 acres of land in the industrial park that could be developed by a company,” Kleckler said.
Kleckler made a motion to have the city attorney take a closer look at the lease to make sure it works for solar farm siting. The motion died after failing to receive a second.
Other city officials disagreed about the desirability of the property.
“This property has been sitting there for decades, largely because it’s very wet there,” Mayor Bill Wescott said. “We’d probably be lucky to get $10,000 for it, and there are plenty of prime spots in the industrial parks.”
The solar generation capabilities will be connected with the city’s electric generation facility. The panels will provide a relatively small amount of power to the participating cities, but IMEA and city officials see the demonstration projects as an important opportunity to experiment with diversifying into green energy power sources.
“Renewable energy is very important to the IMEA, and Rock Falls is now one of the greenest communities in Illinois,” Wescott said.
Because Rock Falls is one of two IMEA members operating hydroelectric plants – the other is Peru – the city will generate a larger percentage of green energy.
“We’ll produce about 3 megawatts of power between solar and hydroelectric, so depending on the time of year, we’ll be producing 15 to 30 percent green energy,” City Administrator Robbin Blackert said.
Rock Falls is a founding member of IMEA, dating back to 1984. There are now 32 members that generate their own municipal power. IMEA is working to diversify its portfolio with more renewable energy.
“We don’t pay anything for this and it helps IMEA to hold the line on its cost to residents,” Blackert said.
Developers will own the solar arrays and the power will be sold through purchase agreements to the agency.
“Like hydroelectric, it goes into our grid,” Blackert said. “The city has nine generation peakers, so we can distribute power to our sister cities.”
Rock Falls Electric’s nine power generators can produce 17 megawatts of electricity for peak periods or emergency situations. The hydroelectric plant can produce 2 megawatts of power.
All 32 IMEA members could submit proposals to host the projects. Major considerations were property availability, ability of the city to support the project, and local support for renewable energy.