Lee County extends moratorium on wind, solar projects

The Lee County Board will not implement a moratorium on solar projects and instead is forming a special committee to take a closer look at the county's ordinance.

DIXON – The Lee County Board extended its moratorium on solar, wind and battery storage projects for another three months while a review to regulate such developments continues.

In December, the board approved a six-month hiatus on solar and wind projects to do a deeper dive into the regulations for those developments after several massive energy developments came before the county.

The county’s renewable energy committee has been going over renewable energy ordinances and recently hired a consulting firm to help with the work. The county also has been conducting community surveys on renewable energy projects as well as underground pipeline developments.

The board unanimously voted on 90-day moratoriums for wind and battery energy storage systems, and the 90-day moratorium on solar was approved in a split vote of 15-3, with members Rick Humphrey, Keane Hudson and Lirim Mimini opposing the item.

The solar moratorium makes an exception for smaller community solar projects that are less than 5 megawatts.

Humphrey said he was concerned that they would be allowing some solar projects despite the review on the regulations, and board Vice Chairman John Nicholson argued that they don’t have the same issues with smaller projects compared with the larger developments.

The county made previous changes to its solar ordinance to address concerns from neighbors, including setbacks and visual buffers.

Before the original moratorium, the County Board approved four utility-grade solar developments, the most recent of which was in December with the 3,838-acre South Dixon Solar project just south of the industrial park by Duke Energy.

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.