YORKVILLE – The proposed solar farm on Yorkville’s far northwest side will produce plenty of electricity but virtually no vehicle traffic.
That’s because there won’t be anyone there.
Aside from an estimated three visits a year to perform maintenance, the 5-megawatt freestanding facility and its 9,700 solar panel arrays will be operated remotely.
New Leaf Energy project developer Tom Ryan of the solar firm’s Chicago office said the facility will be capable of producing enough electricity to power 850 homes.
Ryan was in attendance at the March 28 meeting of the Yorkville City Council for a public hearing on plans for the solar farm.
Seconds after declaring the public hearing open, Mayor John Purcell closed the hearing when it was clear that no one from the public was there to comment on the proposal. Ryan did not address the council.
The freestanding solar farm is to be located on an 18.5-acre site east of Beecher Road along the north side of the BNSF Railroad.
New Leaf Energy plans to lease a total about 48 acres of agricultural land on both sides of the tracks from the Robert M. & Ildefonsa Loftus Living Trust.
The land, now zoned for agriculture and used for row crops, is just outside the city limits.
Community Development Director Kristi Barksdale-Noble said that normally land annexed to the city automatically receives a zoning designation for single-family homes.
The plan is for the city to annex the property, return the zoning to the agricultural designation and issue a special use permit to allow New Leaf to operate the solar farm, Barksdale-Noble said.
The zoning classification would also permit the continued farm use on the remainder of the annexed land, she said.
With the public hearing out of the way, the proposal is expected to come back to the City Council for a vote on April 11.
The project will include the solar panel arrays and supporting equipment, including two electrical transformers and two pieces of equipment called inverters.
Ryan explained that the solar panels produce direct current electricity and that an inverter converts the power to the alternating current that is used in homes and businesses, accessed from a wall socket.
New Leaf Energy will sell the power to ComEd, with the electricity going onto the grid, Ryan said.
The company is to enter a 20-year lease with the property owner to operate the solar farm. The lease also has an option to extend the term for up to four additional and successive periods of five years each.
The developer is not seeking any tax breaks or other financial incentives, City Administrator Bart Olson said.
The city’s 2016 comprehensive plan designates the future land use for the property as a Metra Station and transit-oriented development.
This designation would involve a mix of single-family, townhomes and apartment buildings, along with small-scale neighborhood retail to create an urban center to support a commuter train service.
City officials said the solar farm would be a less intensive land use than a train station and transit-oriented development.