DECATUR — The Macon County board signed off on a second solar farm Thursday, though it's unknown when either project might start up.
The board approved a plan by Atlanta-based SolAmerica Energy to build a 10-to 15-acre solar farm at a property on the northeast intersection of Brush College and Cundiff roads.
“We’re all for solar,” said board Chairman Jay Dunn after Thursday’s meeting.
A 20-acre farm west of Oreana near the intersection of Brush College and Illiniwick roads was approved by the board at its May meeting. That project was sought by Minneapolis-based Geronimo Energy.
SolAmerica’s application does not say how much energy is expected to be generated with its solar panels. Once construction does begin, it is expected to take 16 weeks before it is commercially operational.
Solar energy is expanding rapidly in Illinois, fueled in part by a 2016 state law that created incentives for renewable energy. The Future Energy Jobs Act, notable for preventing closure of Exelon's nuclear power plant in Clinton, calls for a quarter of the state's power production to come from renewable sources such as solar and wind energy by 2025. Solar farm developers must apply to the state for renewable energy credits that could offset the cost of building the projects.
Pete Corbett, senior vice president of engineering and construction at SolAmerica, said after Thursday’s meeting that construction was dependent on if the project was chosen by the state through a lottery system that is expected to occur this fall. If SolAmerica’s project is selected, Corbett was hopeful construction could begin as early as next year.
County leaders have said they don't know how much revenue solar projects like SolAmerica's could generate, but it is expected to be notably less than the $6.1 million in property tax revenue expected from the Radford’s Run Wind Farm over the next three decades.
SolAmerica’s plan originally met some opposition in the county’s committees, specifically related to a piece of the original resolution that would require all solar panels to be at least 300 feet from a residence not part of the special use permit.
That distance was part of the company’s original application, yet the county’s still-in-development solar ordinance would require the distance from panels to properties not involved to be at least 500 feet. The board amended the resolution to say 500 feet before final approval.
Dunn said after Thursday’s meeting there was no timeline for when the county’s solar ordinance would be finalized.