Controversial solar energy projects up again for public hearing in DeKalb County Thursday

Clare residents opposing possible incoming industrial solar power projects in DeKalb County pose near a full scale model of proposed 15-foot tall solar panels ahead of a Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021 continued public hearing for a project from Texas-headquartered Leeward Energy.

SYCAMORE – A public hearing to continue discussion on a proposed solar energy project by Owens Creek LLC is scheduled for Thursday, amid what’s turned into heated debate over the past few weeks in DeKalb County related to solar energy and land use.

Owens Creek is subsidiary of Leeward Renewable Energy, according to county documents, and has submitted an application for a five-hundred megawatt (500mw) solar farm that would occupy about 3,600-acres of land in Mayfield and South Grove Townships. The proposed solar farm would be spread out over a number of separate properties stretching about 0.5 to 1.5 miles on both sides of Old State Road, running from Glidden Road to Clare Road, and also running north between Ault and Johnson roads to just south of Baseline Road.

The continued public hearing will be held at the DeKalb County Legislative Center Gathertorium, 200 N. Main St. in Sycamore. It will immediately follow an unrelated public hearing scheduled for 1 p.m.

Clare resident Jon Lageman, who shared photos of what he said is a full-scale model of the proposed solar panels, said Wednesday he fears 15-foot tall solar panels could result in literal seas of glass and metal, replacing valuable and highly efficient food-producing cropland.

“Renderings of post construction conditions of the project used by Owens Creek Solar during community outreach events are deceptive and, in some cases, underrepresent the size of these panels,” Lageman said. “The public should be aware of what is being proposed with accurate representation of size.”

Three recently proposed industrial solar projects include two from Texas-headquartered Leeward Energy and one from Samsung. All together, the three projects would take up 6,000 acres if proper permits were approved by the county.

The update comes after the DeKalb County Board voted a week ago to approve increasing the limit of land from 8,000 acres to 18,000 acres and to approve the amended resolution supporting a limit to how much land can be used for solar energy projects.

DeKalb County community members previously voiced concerns about future solar energy projects using up farmland too quickly, field drainage concerns and neighboring property values possibly plummeting if they’re adjacent to the projects. Project officials previously said the projects would not be invasive, would generate more property tax revenue than the current agriculturally-zoned land, and they would work to be good neighbors to non-participating property owners.

The projects are set to go before the county board in October.

• This story has been updated 12:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021 regarding incorrect information about who built the industrial solar panel model. Lageman was not the creator but shared photos of the model. The Daily Chronicle regrets the error.

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