Kane board expected to reconsider no vote on Maple Park solar farm

Solar applicant: ‘no more hazardous than a greenhouse or barn’

A new solar field at the Kane County Judicial Center in St. Charles, consisting of 4,200 solar panels, was officially opened on Friday, Oct. 20, 2023.

GENEVA – The Kane County Board at its April 9 meeting is expected to reconsider its previous no vote for a zoning change for a special use to allow a 5-megawatt solar power farm on 38 acres in Maple Park.

The board voted it down 12-9 at the Feb. 13 meeting with one absent, one recused and one who stepped away while the vote was taken, records show.

Known as the Alexander-Johnson Farm Solar Project, the acreage is at 47W829 Route 38, Maple Park, just east of Meredith Road, according to the zoning application.

One megawatt is a unit of power equivalent to 1 million watts, or 1,000 kilowatts, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“The projected use of the property fits the [county’s land use] 2040 plan very well,” according to the application. “The objectives of sustainable energy ... include promoting ... innovative ideas and technologies ... to be a leader and role model in ... use of renewable resources within Kane County.”

Although the application states that solar projects are “inherently very safe and unobtrusive ... no more hazardous than a greenhouse or barn,” neighboring residents opposed it, including its proposed setbacks and how it would affect property values, among other issues.

Kaneville Township Supervisor Dan Koebele testified at the Jan. 3 zoning hearing that the solar farm would affect about 400 people in the township or about 25% of its population.

Koebele read a letter from the Kaneville Township Board into the record, saying, “We, the Kaneville Township Board, are writing this letter to express our opposition to the proposed solar farm in the area of Route 38 and Meredith Road.”

Residents are opposed “for fear of it lowering their property values, permanent damage to the soil, limiting access to their land, along with several other concerns,” Koebele said.

The Kaneville Township Board did not do any studies, but said its opposition was based on township residents’ objections, Koebele said.

The Zoning Board of Appeals voted 6-0 not to recommend it.

In a written statement, Andrew Melka, a development director for the applicant, Horizon Solar Power, wrote that a community solar facility allocates electricity to customers through a local distribution network.

According to Melka’s statement, the project’s impact would have minimal effect on three homes in its line of sight and the company doubled the screening.

“The company and landowners changed the design of the project so that it does not touch any claimed prescriptive easement and allows unobstructed access to all of the objector’s farmland,” according to Melka’s statement. “The Kane County Board has given undue weight to disproven arguments and a vocal minority.”