PITTSFIELD – New state incentives for renewable energy are behind solar company solicitations in two west-central Illinois counties, including in one case the prospect of annual lease payments of $160,000 a year for 20 years.
The Farm Bureau for Pike and Scott counties have scheduled an information meeting for Dec. 12 in response to non-binding letters from solar energy developers on the potential for projects from 50 to 200 acres. The meeting, scheduled for noon at the Pike County Farm Bureau auditorium in Pittsfield, will cover topics such as easement rights, land use restrictions, easements and power-grid connections.
“We’re not opposed to it (solar development) by any means,” said Blake Roderick, executive director for the Farm Bureau in Pike and Scott counties. “We want to talk to landowners and make sure they know what they’re signing. Get an attorney involved before you sign anything.”
Regulatory and legal experts from the Illinois Agricultural Association and Illinois Farm Bureau will be in attendance.
Roderick said as many as 30 companies sent solicitation letters to landowners in the two counties. Solicitations have ranged from 50 acres to a minimum of 200 acres, pending a site analysis, formal lease and financial feasibility, according to summaries provided by the Farm Bureau. One proposal included the possibility of 200 acres leased at $800 per acre, per year for 20 years.
Alternative energy companies, including solar and wind, are scouting potential sites statewide as a result of legislation signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner in December 2016 increasing renewable energy incentives, said MeLena Hessel, a clean energy policy specialist with the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Chicago.
“We’re seeing it across the state,” said Hessel. “We think it’s a real great opportunity for rural areas to benefit with solar development. We think it’s really complementary with agriculture.”
“I’m glad to see the Farm Bureau is working to inform landowners on this issue,” said Hessel.
The legislation signed by Rauner sets a series of targets for increased use of renewable energy in the state through 2030.
Illinois ranked 10th in the nation in 2016 with 233 solar companies based in the state, according to data from the Illinois Solar Energy Association. The solar industry employed 3,718 last year, up 7 percent from 2015. The association expects employment to increase at least 5 percent for 2017.
Contact Tim Landis, 788-1536, email@example.com, twitter.com/timlandisSJR.