BLOOMINGTON — McLean County's latest wind farm application will share the spotlight with a first-of-its-kind alternative energy proposal next month.
Cypress Creek Renewables of Santa Monica, Calif., plans to build the county's first three solar farms, according to permit applications filed this week.
The county's Zoning Board of Appeals will discuss them Feb. 6, the same night it will tackle the proposed Bright Stalk Wind Farm near Chenoa.
Each solar farm would produce substantially less power than a wind farm — 2 megawatts, versus about 200 for Bright Stalk — but be less expensive and less intrusive. Each would produce enough electricity to power about 400 homes.
Each solar farm would cost $3.9 million, including $2.3 million that would be spent locally for each.
The farms would use 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.
"This project will not negatively impact public safety or general welfare, nor will it affect the comfort and convenience of the public in McLean County or of the immediate neighborhood," said a memo from Taylor Smith, a Cypress Creek zoning analyst.
"Allowing the property to develop as a solar energy facility provides many benefits, including an opportunity for locally generated, clean energy resources in McLean County; income generation for the landowner; and economic investment and increased tax revenue for McLean County."
David Loomis, director of Illinois State University's Center for Renewable Energy, said the farms could be the start of a trend caused by an emphasis on solar energy in the state's Future Energy Jobs Act.
“That’s just being rolled out now by the Illinois Power Agency, but I think companies like Cypress Creek are doing their legwork now so that once the state regulatory proceeding is set up, they’ll be in position to build a project,” said Loomis. "We may also see more 'community center solar.' Groups can get together and build a farm, and everybody shares that solar by buying in.”
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.
Two other wind farms, Chicago-based Invenergy's 250-megawatt McLean County Wind Energy Center and Houston-based EDP Renewables North America's 200-megawatt Bright Stalk Wind Farm, are currently going through the county's special-use permit process. Both are slated to be built in the next few years in the north end of the county, near Lexington and Chenoa.