SYCAMORE – Rodney Kyler of Milan Township said he believes the total land allowed for solar farms in his community “should be zero,” echoing concerns voiced by multiple residents this week that industrial solar energy projects are robbing DeKalb County of viable farm land.
Kyler, who serves on the Milan Township board, said the township “took the brunt of the wind turbines” that have been built so far. He also said the township board opposes proposed thousands-acre large industrial solar energy projects that renewable energy companies currently are seeking to develop. His comments came this week during Wednesday’s special DeKalb County planning and zoning committee meeting, meant to debate whether the county should impose acreage caps on future solar energy projects.
“Seventy-two or 73 out of the 150 – I got six of those wind turbines within a half mile of my house,” Kyler said. “And now they want to put a solar farm right across the street? I think it’s wrong. And I am on the township board. The township board opposes, or is not in favor, of this solar farm. So I think you guys should keep that in consideration.”
DeKalb County Board member Steve Faivre, who chairs the county’s planning and zoning committee, said committee members were “not going to take any votes” during the Wednesday meeting because “this was advertised as listening session,” he said.
Faivre said the consensus of the committee was to bring up the subject to the county’s executive committee at a later date.
Next steps could include conversations with the DeKalb County State’s Attorney’s office to determine whether acreage caps should be specific to a number of a percentage of available land relative to project’s designated space.
Residents who attended the meeting voiced concerns such as future solar energy projects using up farmland too quickly, and concerns over neighboring property values plummeting if they’re adjacent to industrial solar farms which could have 15-foot high panels.
Residents claimed county board members didn’t suspect that, after the 2018 solar ordinance was approved, the board would then consider industrial solar projects that are thousands of acres large as opposed to hundreds. They pointed to language in the ordinance including “lot,” “parcel” and reference to 100-foot setbacks from property lines.
“I would imagine that the authors of this ordinance certainly didn’t dream of that large of a complex going in,” Mayfield Township resident Mark Cooley said. “And I think it’s obvious by the words that are in the document itself.”
Faivre said the county’s current 2018 solar energy ordinance involved public input that was considered in the ordinance’s creation.
“So this isn’t something that just sort of popped out,” Faivre said.
Franklin Township resident Katie Andraski said the 6,000 acres of farmland in the county produced an average of 197.8 bushels of corn and 59.2 bushels of soybeans in the past five years.
“And there are other places we’re looking at – California with the drought and the bread basket is going dry and they’re killing almond trees,” Andraski said. “That land is not viable because there’s no water. And here we have land that is viable to produce our food and it’s going to be taken out of production.”
Representatives from Texas-headquartered Leeward Energy recently submitted special use applications to DeKalb County zoning officials for two industrial solar energy projects.
A proposed 1,800-acre Red Maple solar project site location is south of Gurler Road and north of Perry Road in Afton and Pierce townships. A proposed 3,700-acre Owens Creek project site is west of Glidden Road, south of Base Line Road and north of Illinois Route 64 in Mayfield and South Grove townships.
County officials confirmed public hearings for the proposed industrial solar energy projects are tentatively scheduled for Aug. 10.