Grundy County’s solar committee creates guidelines for solar farms

The solar farm at Huntley High School on Friday, June 30, 2023. Multiple solar farms across McHenry County are being presented to the McHenry County Board creating concerns of watershed, farmland and pollinator issues.

The Grundy County Board heard a presentation from its committee on solar farms Tuesday night, addressing the issues the county faces in the planning and application process for solar farms.

Grundy County Administrator Mary Kucharz said the county will soon have a space on its website with a checklist identifying the four stages of the development process, which will place some responsibility on the solar farms to show the county they’ve taken the certain steps that they’re supposed to.

“I’ve highlighted some of the responsibilities put on the developer, things like providing documentation of communication with municipalities within 1.5 miles of the planned location, providing documentation of meetings with township road commissioners and supervisors, providing documentation of meetings with residents within 1,500 feet of the proposed location, submitting emergency planning, proposed any type of battery storage that would have to be approved with fire departments and office buildings,” Kucharz said. “So, we took these and the committee looked at all of the possible impacts that the solar farms have within the community and determined that we needed a better way to put that responsibility back on the developers to show they were actually doing this.”

Kucharz said the committee was not comfortable just hearing the firms developing solar farms say they did their responsibilities. The checklist will aid land use in ensuring all steps have been taken.

The committee also created a color-coded table for the county board that showed what steps the solar farms are currently at in the process of getting up and running. Grundy County currently has five operational solar farms, two solar farms in construction, seven approved but yet to be built, and two in the middle of the petitioning process.

The website will also have a map of approved solar farms and where they will be, along with a 1.5 mile outline showing which municipalities solar farms may be near.

The map also provides locations of transmission lines. Monica Schild, with the Grundy Economic Development Commission, said large scale solar farms will want to be close to where existing infrastructure is since extending the lines too far out would be expensive. She said this map would give an idea where it’s most advantageous for the solar farms to go, and it also lets them know where they might run into challenges.

“What came out of this committee was a lot of checks and balances,” Kucharz said. “We wanted to make sure that things were not slipping through the system, that things were not getting missed, that solar developers were not telling us they did it. We wanted to make sure those checks and balances were there.”

Kucharz said the future is to continue to take input for citizens and developers wherever the committee can get it and constantly look at how solar farms are handled, learning how to handle them better.

Michael Urbanec

Michael Urbanec

Michael Urbanec covers Grundy County and the City of Morris, Coal City, Minooka, and more for the Morris Herald-News