Four special use permit applications for solar panel arrays have been recommended for approval by the county’s hearing officer since the solar ordinance for DeKalb County went into effect April 1.
On top of that, five more solar power project applications will be considered during three public hearings at 1 p.m., 1:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. Thursday at the DeKalb County Administration Building’s Conference Room East, 110 E. Sycamore St. in Sycamore.
Altogether, seven special use applications for large-scale solar energy projects will have been brought before the public in the past two months.
One special use permit application already has been approved by the DeKalb County Planning and Zoning Committee. Three are up for approval during the committee’s meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the DeKalb County Legislative Center Gathertorium, 200 N. Main St. in Sycamore.
All of the projects recommended for approval so far are 2-megawatt community solar farms, which can power about 300 homes each and generate between $12,000 and $13,000 in annual tax revenue, compared to the current agriculturally zoned land only bringing in a couple hundred dollars a year. Because the energy would go into the ComEd power grid, any current customer of the company would be eligible to receive power from the solar panels.
Although some had concerns about the applications, such as how water drainage on leased farmland might affect nearby farms and how the solar gardens might affect property values, most hearing attendees did not outright object to these types of projects. One DeKalb resident said during the July 12 hearings that he never knew where a nearby solar energy project was until he went looking for it, nor were they as invasive as a wind tower.
Speaking of which, a wind ordinance draft is being constructed by the county’s Planning and Zoning Committee, and a few more elements were approved during a July 12 meeting. What remains to be voted on by the committee are property value guarantees and setbacks, probably the most divisive topics for wind tower opponents. The topics are expected to be covered during the committee’s Wednesday meeting.
The county passed a moratorium for wind farms in March 2017, meaning the county cannot consider any special use permits for those kinds of projects until a wind ordinance is passed.
The phrase heard at the wind farm meetings time and time again has been that most who are against the wind farms aren’t necessarily against renewable energy. If there are enough solar energy projects coming in before any wind farms have a chance to apply, however, let’s see what land remains by the time wind farm companies can request special use permits.