DeKALB – A solar energy project located near the DeKalb Municipal Airport may be coming soon, according to city officials.
DeKalb City Manager Bill Nicklas said Bill French, the regional director of project development for SunVest Solar, LLC of Geneva, wants to develop a 5-megawatt solar farm that would feed into the regional energy grid on the northwest side of the DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport property. The area in question is 48 acres near Pleasant Street.
Nicklas said the company “has been successful in the lottery and in other places but not for this particular site.” He said the City would lease the property at $1,800 per acre in the first year, with a 2% rent increase each year thereafter.
According to city documents, the city would collect a total of $86,400 in the first year’s rent. Over 25 years, the total estimated rental income will be about $2.7 million.
“So we feel this is a unique and a positive opportunity for the city, and I thought I’d bring it to the council so you could kick it around and the public could review it,” Nicklas said. “And with your direction, we can proceed or not with this. And we recommended that we do.”
Nicklas said another proposed use for the land near the airport has been installing more hangars for parked aircraft.
“The proposed solar field area does not preclude us from having more hangar development here,” Nicklas said. “As long as it doesn’t violate any of the prescriptions for proximity to taxiways and runways.”
“It’s been in corn since it was acquired by the City of DeKalb,” Nicklas said of the land.
Seventh Ward Alderman Tony Faivre said a solar field was one of the proposed land use development opportunities identified for the airport several years ago. He said the airport sees a lot of traffic due to fuel prices alone, since it has “one of the lowest prices in the area for fuel.”
“I know people fly from all over to DeKalb to refuel,” Faivre said.
Nicklas said the solar farm rental agreement would give the city about $2.8 million in new revenue over 25 years.
“The airport fund does need some new revenue,” Nicklas said. “That fund has been surviving on fuel sales and rentals for quite a while.”
With the recent arrival of Facebook’s DeKalb Data Center and Ferrara Candy Company on the south side, Faivre said, he believes there’s “opportunity for potentially corporate hangers and to attract some larger companies from the east out here.”
“I think this is a great opportunity for the airport,” Faivre said. “I think it’s a good way to raise some revenue.”
First Ward Alderwoman Carolyn Morris said she “genuinely appreciates this efficient use of the airport’s land.” DeKalb Mayor Cohen Barnes agreed.
“And to have an additional revenue stream for the airport is fantastic,” Barnes said. “So it just seems like the city continues to get more and more creative on how we can maximize the property we have, or the revenue streams that we have, with the people or the technology we have.”
Nicklas said City staff sought council direction for next steps of the proposed project. With Monday’s approval given, Nicklas said he intends to bring the matter forward to council for an official vote in the future.
• This story was updated 4:20 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25, 2021 to correct the location of the proposed solar energy project near DeKalb Municipal Airport.