5-megawatt solar farm proposed for Locust and Science Ridge in Sterling

A 2022 community solar project in Burlington shows one way developers can approach the issue of land use. Wildflowers thrive among the 7,000 panels that make up French Road Solar. COURTESY OF NEXAMP

STERLING – A company with multiple community solar projects in Illinois and five other states is asking to build a 5-megawatt solar farm in a field at Locust Street/state Route 40 and Science Ridge Road/East 37th Street, just outside Sterling’s northern city limit.

Locust Street Solar LLC, a subsidiary of Boston-based Nexamp Solar LLC, plans to build on 28 acres of a 42-acre site on the southeast corner of the intersection where the Illinois Department of Transportation happens to be in the process of constructing a roundabout. The two projects are unrelated.

The solar farm would create 20 to 30 construction jobs during the six months or so it would take to build it, with work beginning in fall 2024, Nexamp said in its proposal, which also must pass county muster.

If permitted, the farm would have about 11,100 “modules,” or solar panels, in the array, which would be 20 feet tall at full tilt.

The modules would have a coating to reduce glare and would be monitored remotely, meaning little traffic to and from the site, which would be enclosed by an up-to-8-foot fence.

A gravel access driveway would be created, and a pollinator-friendly seed mix will be planted around the structure, according to the proposal.

The company also may use grazing sheep to keep the site mowed.

The property, which is owned by Bill Hermes of TN Hermes LLC in Knoxville, Tennessee, is bordered to the south by Wahl Clipper Corp. Officials of met with Nexamp and said they do not expect the farm to affect its operations.

It is bordered to the north by Science Ridge Road and to the west by Locust Street/state Route 40, and to the east by farmland, which also would not be affected.

There is a home across Science Ridge to the north, but no other immediately nearby residential neighbor.

A solar farm on the site would be “consistent with the purposes, goals, objectives and standards of the officially adopted comprehensive plan of the city of Sterling [which] “envisions a sustainable future that embraces clean energy projects like solar installations, wind turbines, and electric vehicle charging stations,” according to the proposal.

Once the farm has reached the end of its life, Nexamp would decommission it, recycle or sell most components, and the land would return to agricultural use, the company said.

The City Council, which met Tuesday because of Monday’s holiday, voted to send Nexamp’s request for a special-use permit to the Plan Commission for review.

Kathleen Schultz

Kathleen A. Schultz

Kathleen Schultz is a Sterling native with 40 years of reporting and editing experience in Arizona, California, Montana and Illinois.