Local News

Kane County approves solar panel farm that may save $5 million in energy costs

A plan that leverages the state’s new clean energy reform bill into $5 million in savings by constructing a new solar energy farm received approval Tuesday from the Kane County Board.

But the location of the farm has neighboring residents worried about glare and unappealing views of solar panels.

The solar panels will go up on vacant space at the Kane County Judicial Center near Peck and Bricher roads. Neighbors in Geneva’s Prairie Ridge subdivision peppered the county board with appeals not to build anything that will take away from the scenery they enjoy or reflect sun glare onto their homes.

Todd Wallace, the newest county board member, represents the district where those residents live. He said he “could not agree more” that the solar energy project is a valuable addition to the county’s energy resources. But he sought assurances that yet-to-be-completed engineering at the site will result in a design that makes Prairie Ridge residents happy.

“Without that, I have difficulty supporting it,” Wallace said.

He would go on to be one of three “No” votes on the project, even though the county staff and several fellow board members promised there will be “no discernible glare” from the site and that the panels will never point toward the neighboring homes.

County board member Chris Kious reminded his colleagues their job Tuesday was only to vote on a contract that would allow the project to move forward. There is time to address details and overcome obstacles as the plans become a reality, he said.

“Those concerns cannot be addressed by the engineers until we pass these agreements,” Kious said. “We are not here to determine whether there’s glare. We’re not here to determine if photovoltaic energy is safe. We’re not here to determine exactly which plantings will be best to improve the aesthetics of the site. We’re here to approve an agreement that will potentially save the county over $5 million over the next 25 years, to reduce carbon and help this country reduce the effects of global climate change.”

The county board needed a supermajority vote to lock in a lease agreement of more than two years with Palatine-based GRNE Solar. The board approved the contract and energy purchase agreement with a 20-3 vote.

There will be additional discussion of the project as the engineering proceeds, including $50,000 in landscaping to screen the panels from neighbors.