Will County turns down solar farm plan for Channahon

County board vote change of pace from customary approval of solar projects

An example of a solar farm, this one an already-constructed farm built by Summit Ridge Energy, which recently installed 6110 solar panels at the Speedway Solar solar energy facility in Joliet on Thursday, March 2nd, 2023.

The Will County Board on Thursday rejected a solar farm planned for Channahon Township, breaking a pattern of county approvals for such developments.

Solar farms have been growing rapidly in rural Will County despite resistance at times from residents who live near them.

Illinois law, drawn to encourage alternative energy development, limits local control of solar projects, and county board members at times have complained that their hands are tied by the state.

But the 64-acre solar farm planned for McKinley Woods Road faced opposition from the village of Channahon, Channahon Township and the Channahon Fire Department.

“We’re not opposed to solar,” Channahon Mayor Missey Moorman Schumacher said after the board vote. “It was strictly the location of this one – so close to residences and right in the middle of town.”

The solar farm was to be part of a 130 acres of what is now farm land that is outside Channahon village limits but surrounded by residential development within village limits.

The site is south of Route 6 and McKinley Woods and Hansel roads. Prospects for approval appeared slight going into the Thursday board meeting.

Soltage, the company that wanted to build the solar farm, was turned down in a 4-1 vote when the plan was submitted to the county’s Planning and Zoning Commission. It next went to the County Board’s Land Use and Development Committee, which voted 6-0 against it.

The full county board vote on Thursday was 14-6 against it.

While nearby development is residential, the nearest house would have been 622 feet away.

That’s more than two football fields, noted Jonathan Roberts, vice president for Soltage, the company that wanted to build the solar farm.

Roberts and an attorney for Soltage said the plan met legal standards set for solar farms by state and county law.

“We have been and remain willing to work with our neighbors to ease their concerns,” Roberts told the county board.

Schumacher said that despite the distance from the solar panels to the nearest house, the facility would have become a prominent part of the landscape for the area.

Channahon’s long-term plans for years have marked the unincorporated site for future residential development, Schumacher said. “This has always been slated for residential because of all the residential around it,” she said