McHenry County Board paves way for 6 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 McHenry County Board voted Tuesday evening to approve zoning changes, allowing the creation of six new solar farms, mostly in western McHenry County.

The board added three conditions for the approvals: Developers must come back in 20 years for conditional use renewals, all current and future state and federal laws must be met, and an engineer’s estimate on decommission is due every 10 years.

The votes come in the wake of a new Illinois law that limits what restrictions the county can place on solar farms, and several County Board members mentioned Tuesday the need to not run afoul of the law.

“Until the state law is amended, we have to follow our laws,” said board member Theresa Meshes, D-Fox River Grove.

“We cannot make any conditions stricter than the state law,” said board member Kelli Wegener, a fellow Democrat from Crystal Lake.

Board member Joe Gottemoller, R-Crystal Lake, who also is a real estate attorney, said he didn’t expect any lawsuits despite the added conditions.

“I don’t think what we did [Tuesday] will lead to a lawsuit,” Gottemoller said. “I hope the conditions we put in are not the reason for a lawsuit.”

Several residents criticized the votes Tuesday evening during the public comment period of the meeting, which immediately followed the approvals.

Residents raised concerns about toxins from solar farms getting into drinking water and farmland being converted to solar farms.

“I have heard from more people calling me with concerns over these solar farms than I have people calling me with support of them,” board member John Reinert, R-Crystal Lake, said.

The proposed solar farms clustered in the western part of the county include one near the Illinois Railway Museum in Union.

The proposed solar farms include one from ASD Seneca IL Solar LLC on O’Cock Road near Union, from Wildcat Solar 1 LLC on North Fleming Road near Woodstock, from Wildcat Solar 2 LLC on Route 120 near Woodstock, from Ally Energy Solutions LLC on Route 173 near Harvard, from ASD Coral IL Solar LLC near Hemmingsen Road near Union and from Plowshare Solar LLC between Anthony and Harmony roads near Marengo.

The County Board also recently voted to approve a solar farm in Crystal Lake.