BLOOMINGTON — A developer hoping to bring the first three solar farms to McLean County touted the benefits of the proposal Tuesday.
Representatives of Cypress Creek Renewables, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based solar power company, told the county's Zoning Board of Appeals its planned farms near Arrowsmith and Downs will bring economic development and renewable energy production to the area without many of the complications of other energy sources, including wind farms.
"This is a quiet, essentially self-sufficient power-generating source that's not noticeable, that's low to the ground," said Cypress Creek senior developer Scott Novack during a presentation. "Because of limited moving parts, there's no sound, and outside 150 feet from the transformer equipment, you can't detect the farm magnetically."
Each solar farm would cost $3.9 million, including $2.3 million spent locally each. That includes 25 construction jobs for each during construction, and leases for those who own the land to be used — 20 acres owned by David Sandage on McLean County Road 1100 North near Arrowsmith, 30 acres on the same road with the same owner and 30 acres owned by Mary S. Trent on County Road 2200 East near Downs.
Each farm is expected to produce 2 megawatts, or enough power for about 321 homes, and an additional $27,600 in local, annual spending going forward.
Novack said the farms would be monitored remotely, but "if there's a problem, we'll send somebody out, somebody local who's an expert."
The farms are expected to use photovoltaic panels, which turn solar light into electricity, and tilt very slowly over the course of the day to continuously face the sun.
While the solar farms would use potential farmland, they leave a minimal footprint, including a steel pole for each solar panel driven 6 to 10 feet in the ground and a 20-by-10-foot concrete pad for electrical equipment.
"This project will not only be a good steward of farmlands but help the state of Illinois meet its renewable energy and economic goals," said David Streicker, a Chicago attorney who represented Cypress Creek on Tuesday.
Streicker said, "Solar will be a perfect complement to the wind farms you have in the area."
McLean County has several solar arrays already, but they're residential or business units rather than large-scale farms or community agreements.
The county also has two wind farms: Twin Groves Wind Farm, a two-phase, 198-megawatt farm near Ellsworth, and White Oak Energy Center, a 150-megawatt farm near Carlock.
The zoning board will continue discussing the solar farms at 7 p.m. Wednesday, and then it will discuss EDP Renewables North America's proposed Bright Stalk Wind Farm at 6 p.m. Thursday. Both meetings will be at the Government Center, 115 E. Washington St., Bloomington.