Lee County issues moratorium on solar, wind projects

Board member says county needs its playbook updated

This May file photo shows part of the Big Sky wind farm near Ohio. The California-based Edison Mission Group has 58 turbines in Lee County and 56 in Bureau County, covering 13,000 acres.

DIXON º Lee County will be taking a 6-month hiatus on solar and wind projects to do a deeper dive into the regulations for those developments.

The County Board approved a moratorium for both solar and wind projects earlier this week in a 16-to-4 vote.

Board member Chris Norberg, who’s chairman of the county’s Renewable Energy Committee, said the committee decided there was a need to further review the county’s wind and solar ordinances, following several massive energy developments coming before the county.

A year ago, the board voted down a moratorium on solar projects and instead created the renewable energy committee as well as made changes to the solar ordinance to address concerns from neighbors of projects including setbacks and visual buffers.

“We need to take a little bit of a break,” Norberg said. “We need to look at this again.”

The moratorium will be for 6 months, but Norberg said he hopes to have the process done within 3 or 4 months.

The moratorium also will be a good time to update the Lee County Comprehensive Plan to make solar and wind production a supported goal, board member Kasey Considine said.

“We need our playbook updated,” he said.

The board approved the moratorium after voting in favor of the 3,838-acre South Dixon Solar project just south of the industrial park by Duke Energy.

It was the fourth utility-grade solar development the county approved during the last couple of years.

In November 2020, the board approved a special-use permit for Steward Creek Solar LLC, of Virginia-based Hexagon Energy, to build a 600-megawatt solar farm across 5,000 acres in Alto and Willow Creek townships near Steward and Lee, bordering Ogle and DeKalb counties as well as Interstate 39 and Highway 30.

The board approved a 1,300-acre solar farm in September 2020 by Eldena Solar LLC, developed by Minnesota-based Geronimo Energy LLC, allowing for a 175-megawatt solar farm in South Dixon and Nachusa townships, near the corner of Eldena and Nachusa roads.

In May 2019, Geronimo also was granted a special-use permit under Junction Solar LLC to build a 100-megawatt solar farm across 760 acres near Steward between Herman and Reynolds roads in Alto and Reynolds townships.

Rachel Rodgers

Rachel Rodgers

Rachel Rodgers joined Sauk Valley Media in 2016 covering local government in Dixon and Lee County.