City needs to shed some light on regulations

January 5, 2019

DIXON – The City Council plans to vote Monday on rules for developing solar farms within city limits.

During the past year, the city has heard a handful of proposed solar projects within or near its borders, the latest one from EnterSolar LLC, which wants to build a solar farm on UPM Raflatac property east of its headquarters at 101 E. Corporate Drive in the industrial park.

In November, the council decided it needed an ordinance to regulate solar farm construction and referred a draft to the Plan Commission to review.

If the plan is approved, energy companies would need a building permit and a special-use permit for building ground-mounted solar arrays, as well as follow other requirements, such as having a decommissioning plan in place if a project is abandoned or is at the end of its lifespan, which is typically about 25 to 30 years.

The Lee County Board created its solar development ordinance more than a year ago, and around 20 potential solar projects went through the county zoning process and then to the board last year, with most of them being approved – but it’s likely only a few projects will be developed.

A flood of solar farm developers have lined up special use permits and interconnection agreements with utility providers such as ComEd in order to land a spot in a statewide lottery that will determine what projects receive renewable energy credits. The lottery is slated to happen this month and has different categories based on the size and type of solar project.

The solar boom was created with the Future Energy Jobs Act the state passed in late 2016 that requires utility companies to get 25 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2025.

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