Lee County again extends moratorium on wind, solar projects

Ordinance changes on the horizon

Wind farm in southeastern Lee County north and east of Compton on Wednesday, July 27, 2022.

DIXON – The Lee County Board extended its moratorium on solar, wind and battery storage projects for another three months, and amended rules will soon be going to the county for review.

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 the board approved a 90-day extension in May to give it more time.

The wind and solar changes are nearly ready for board review, but another extension was needed to give everyone enough time to go over them, committee chairman Chris Norberg said.

“We are extremely close,” Norberg said.

The board approved a 90-day extension last week that will expire Nov. 30.

The county doesn’t have an existing ordinance for battery storage projects, but one will likely be coming shortly after the wind and solar amendments.

The county made previous changes to its solar ordinance to address concerns from neighbors, including setbacks and visual buffers. The moratorium doesn’t apply to smaller community solar projects less than 5 megawatts.

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.

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Rachel Rodgers

Rachel Rodgers

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