Lee County Board OKs another 5-megawatt solar facility

The site plan for Woosung Solar LLC, located at the corner of Pilgrim Road and state Route 26. Lee County Board members approved a special use permit for the project at the May 23, 2024, meeting.

DIXON – Developers from another 5-megawatt commercial solar energy facility have received the OK from the Lee County Board to move forward with building in Palmyra Township.

On May 23, Lee County Board members voted 12-4 to grant a special-use permit to Woosung Solar LLC to build on the southeast corner of Pilgrim Road and Route 26 in Palmyra Township. The property is owned by Irish Eyes Farms LLC.

Board members Lirim Mimini, Michael Pearson, Angie Shippert and Tim Bivins voted no. Members Mike Book, Ali Huss, Tom Wilson and Mike Zeman were absent.

There was no discussion by County Board members before the vote.

Woosung Solar LLC is a subsidiary of SolarStone Illinois LLC, which itself is a subsidiary of Minnesota-based SolarStone Development LLC.

The solar facility will be located on 40.2 acres of land, of which 21.2 acres are proposed to have solar panels, according to Woosung Solar’s special-use permit application.

The Lee County Zoning Board of Appeals voted 4-0 to recommend that the County Board grant the special-use permit, Lee County Zoning Administrator Alice Henkel said in a May 28 interview.

Woosung Solar originally applied for a special-use permit in the fall, but it was not approved, Henkel said. The developer reapplied and addressed the county’s concerns, she said.

The public hearing in 2023 was “not a very good hearing,” Henkel said. “The gentleman they had testify wasn’t able to answer a lot of the questions specific to the [Lee County] ordinance. Therefore, the ZBA found that they weren’t compliant, more or less.”

At that time, ZBA members were concerned that the developer wasn’t familiar enough with the Lee County zoning ordinance requirements to be able to comply with them, she said.

An April 24 public hearing that lasted about 1½ hours went much better for the developer, Henkel said.

“They came back, they were prepared, and this one went off without a hitch,” she said.

No one spoke in objection to the project at the April 24 hearing, Henkel said. No one spoke for or against Woosung Solar at the May 23 County Board meeting.

Other solar projects

In April, Lee County Board members voted 17-1-1 to grant Ironwood Projects a special-use permit to build a 5-megawatt commercial solar energy facility on property adjacent to 464 Kilgore Road, Dixon. Shippert cast the lone no vote, and board Chairman Bob Olson abstained.

Ironwood Projects is a Louisiana-based company doing business in Illinois as Pulse Solar II LLC.

Pulse Solar II is proposed to cover 41.8 acres of a 57.8-acre lot and is expected to generate enough energy to power about 1,100 single-family homes annually, according to Ironwood Project’s special-use permit application.

In March, board members voted 11-3-3 to approve a special-use permit for Hexagon Energy LLC to build phase two of Steward Creek in Alto and Willow townships.

Shipper, Pearson and Bivins voted no. Olson, Huss and board member Chris Robertson abstained. Mimini and member Reed Akre were absent. All other board members voted to approve the special-use permit.

Phases one and two of Steward Creek each are designed to produce 600 megawatts – phase two also includes a 150-megawatt battery energy storage system – and together will cover about 9,000 acres. If built, it will be one of the largest solar facilities in the U.S.

For a more in-depth explanation on how zoning and the zoning ordinance process works, see Shaw Local’s article on the Lee County zoning process.

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Alexa Zoellner

Alexa Zoellner

Alexa Zoellner reports on Lee, Ogle and Whiteside counties for Shaw Media out of the Dixon office. Previously, she worked for the Record-Eagle in Traverse City, Michigan, and the Daily Jefferson County Union in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin.