Crystal Lake approves plan for solar panels at McHenry County College

McHenry County College soon will have solar power to supplement its energy use.

The Crystal Lake City Council recently approved plans for a solar farm at the college,
8900 Route 14.

“I think it is a very good project, and I think it will do well for the college,” Crystal Lake senior planner Elizabeth Maxwell said. “It will be an educational opportunity for them, but it will also help reduce some of their costs. Even though there’s startup costs, it will reduce some of their long-term costs of relying on just ComEd power.”

In October, the school’s Board of Trustees approved a contract with ENGIE to build an 875-kilowatt solar field to provide 28 percent of the community college’s energy. As part of the 25-year agreement, the college will save $34,353.64 a year for the first year of operation and similar savings for the next five years, according to school and city documents.

The solar field will be on
3.4 acres south of the baseball field, and construction is expected to begin in the summer. A 6-foot fence wrapped with black fabric mesh is required around the site. Maxwell said building permits have not yet been submitted.

Landscaping around the solar array will include ground cover of native grasses and clover, which will attract native species to help pollinate local flora at the school, according to school documents.

In a statement released after ENGIE was awarded a contract, McHenry County College President Clint Gabbard applauded the move.

“As part of our green initiatives to save energy and lower costs, the college plans to produce campus electricity from on-site, renewable energy,” Gabbard said. “We have explored different approaches to solar energy over the last several years and have now found a company that will help us sustain our mission of being a green campus.”