The boom in was started by the Future Jobs Act adopted in 2016. Because the state is offering very juicy incentives to companies building renewable energy sources, these companies have started to look for the best places to place their plants in almost every county in Southern . The act was implemented last summer and various officials have started to really focus on solar farms since then.

The mayor of Marissa, Chad Easton, for example, states that he has already received six phone calls from various companies looking for some land to build solar farms. These companies are actively looking for property large enough to house a solar array. According to , the solar boom is very real in Illinois.

Solar Farms: What Are They?

But what is a ? Well, it’s a new type of farm. Instead of various crops, such as soybeans or corn, this type of farm has row after row of PV panels (photovoltaic panels). These panels are designed to capture light from the sun and convert it into usable electricity. This electricity is then released into the power grid of the state – for a price, of course! Solar developers are looking to make a profit, so they are basically selling their product – which is electricity from solar panels – to utilities companies.

Companies are willing to pay good money to land owners who would lease their land. The reality is that many land owners are very interested in leasing their lands because they need the money and because the idea sounds appealing. After all, producing electricity using sunlight is a green, renewable way to make a product that is in high demand. However, there are also residents who don’t agree, saying the solar farms are an unpleasant sight with a negative impact on the environment.

At this time, the zoning board of Marissa is analyzing a request from an energy company based in Denver to get a permit for special uses. The permit would enable the company to build a large solar farm over 26 acres of farmland near the eastern edge of the town. There were some issues with the procedures, so the meeting was rescheduled.

Other communities in St. Clair County, such as Washington Park, Fairmont City, Belleville, and Smithton are also considering allowing companies to build solar farms on their territory. Also, similar solar projects are being considered in other counties, like Madison, Clinton, Bond, and Washington.

According to the director of communications of the Citizens Utility Board in Illinois, the solar boom in Illinois is real and it is only in its infancy. Jim Chilsen considers this a very good thing for consumers all around the state.

However, not all solar projects are going to get the necessary permits. Just because companies are talking about building solar farms in various areas doesn’t mean these projects will get finalized. The permitting process takes weeks – sometimes even months. Feasibility studies are also necessary to figure out if specific projects are able to generate a profit for the solar developers. After these are finished, the companies need one more permit, from the , which is the state agency tasked with implementing the solar program in the Illinois community.

How Many Projects Can the State Fund?

After the developers get all the necessary permits and approvals, they have 18 months to finalize the proposed projects. According to various officials, they expect only 75 projects to get approval during the initial phase of the program. This is the maximum number of projects the state can fund. And the average size of each project is expected to be 2 megawatts. This means Illinois will add roughly 150 megawatts of solar energy capacity in the initial phase, or enough to power 112,500 to 150,000 homes. A lottery will decide which projects make it, if there are more than 75 projects submitted.

The relatively good news is there will be no tax dollars spent on developing these solar projects. According to the Illinois Power Agency, the solar projects will get partial funding from a surcharge of 2% on power bills. The surcharge is applied to both commercial and residential bills. However, the Illinois power grid is expecting to save money after the projects are developed, so this looks like a good investment.

But why are companies flocking to Illinois? The current legislation allows solar developers to make contracts with utilities companies to sell their solar electricity at a set price. And utilities are to buy electricity at the agreed rate for 15 years.

In addition, Illinois has the goal to get a quarter of its electricity from renewable sources like solar and wind by the year 2025. This goal was set by the Future Energy Jobs Act and is designed to protect the Illinois environment, create more jobs, and to decrease energy bill costs.

The reality is most of the solar companies would not be interested in developing solar farms in Illinois if it weren’t for the state incentives. Solar developers are interested in making a profit, but the cheap energy will help hundreds of thousands of Illinois residents as well. Continue staying on top of solar news so you stay in the know about the latest developments!

Sources:

https://www.bnd.com/news/local/article215363515.html

http://www.franklincounty-news.com/2018/07/30/southern-illinois-is-becoming-a-hot-place-for-energy-companies-to-build-solar-farms/

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