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092016-blm-loc-1solar

Rod Taylor of Wilcox Electric and Service Inc. attaches one of 24 solar panels on the home of Kathy and Paul Packard in Normal on July 12, 2016. The Packards' home was one of 30 homes and businesses to get panels through group-buy program Solar Bloomington-Normal.

BLOOMINGTON — McLean County's solar boom is officially on hold.

Only one of McLean County's crush of proposed solar farms got state credits and can now proceed following a lottery last week, leaving 17 more county-approved projects in limbo until the state offers more opportunities to build.

News was similar across the state as Moraine Solar, a 2-megawatt project at 6450 McLean County Road 2200 East near Downs, was among just 112 of 909 community solar developments selected by the Illinois Power Agency.

Several pieces of legislation being proposed in Springfield would bring more funding for renewable energy, opening up the chance for more projects to receive credits.

Moraine Solar is expected to cost $3.9 million, including $2.3 million invested locally, and to generate construction jobs and property tax revenue.

Cypress Creek Renewables of Santa Monica, Calif., is behind the 33-acre project — as well as several other proposed solar farms in McLean County.

"My understanding was they would try to build them this year, but I have not spoken with them since this list came out," said Phil Dick, the county's director of building and zoning. "There were conditions on the various special-use permits. Once that's taken care of we can issue permits without taking this back to the County Board."

Cypress Creek officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Projects approved by the County Board could be located across the county, including in south and west Bloomington, Arrowsmith, Downs, Heyworth, McLean and Towanda. Each would take up at least 14 acres, and some would use up to 40 — an issue for board members who said they're concerned about giving up prime farmland.

Projects in another category, “large distributed generation,” were more successful, with all 740 such projects statewide qualifying for renewable-energy credits. These projects use solar panels to generate electricity for specific businesses and property owners; community solar projects send power to other sites.

In McLean County, those sites include Walmart, Dr. Stephen Pilcher's office, Illini Elite Volleyball and Pro Air HVAC, all in Bloomington; Gastrointestinal Institute, The Lodge on Willow, Mennonite Church of Normal, Pinecrest Apartments and The Shoppes at College Hills, all in Normal; Keighin Farms in Carlock; Midwest Electronics in Ellsworth; Love's Travel Stop in LeRoy; and Kieser Farms in McLean.

Lincoln College received approval for a 1.5-megawatt solar project at its Lincoln campus and plans to build this year, the college said in a statement.

The Normal-based Ecology Action Center has led two group-buy programs, called Solar Bloomington-Normal, to encourage those kind of projects, and a third round is expected this year.

Contact Derek Beigh at (309) 820-3234. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_beigh

The Herald & Review contributed to this report.

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