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Alternative energy talks continue at County Board meeting

Solar farm ordinance nears completion; wind farm discussions winding up

Matthew Apgar -
Wind turbines harvest energy created by wind currents on Monday, Dec. 11, 2017 in Waterman.
Matthew Apgar - Wind turbines harvest energy created by wind currents on Monday, Dec. 11, 2017 in Waterman.

SYCAMORE – Almost a year after the DeKalb County Board voted for a moratorium on wind and solar farms in the county, the Planning and Zoning Committee is nearing completion of the ordinance governing solar farms, and it is starting to write the wind farm ordinance.

On Wednesday, the committee will host representatives from Boone County, which wrote its own ordinance in 2012 to regulate wind farms within its borders. The meeting is expected to be informative for more than just the committee.

“We want to learn from what others have done,” said DeKalb County Board Chairman Mark Pietrowski, D-District 3.

The hope is to get thoughts and experiences on the deliberations Boone County went through, Pietrowski said. He said board member Tracy Jones, R-District 1, set up the meeting.

“[Committee] members are requested to consider and write down questions they would like to have answered by representatives from Boone County, so that a better understanding of the process and regulations can be shared for all in attendance,” Derek Hiland, director of the DeKalb County Community Development Department, wrote in a memorandum to the planning and zoning committee.

The ordinances governing alternative energy across the state are not being written entirely from scratch. Boone County considered regulations written in counties across the state when its ordinance was written, including what DeKalb County was doing at the time. DeKalb County community development has on its website a matrix featuring different ordinances from the region.

“We don’t want any previous ordinance to influence ours,” Pietrowski said.

Instead, he said the County Board wants to learn from them, but also take in information from constituents and businesses, who have been submitting articles and academic papers and voicing concerns.

“A lot of people will have concerns,” Pietrowski said. “It’s large infrastructure. ... The main goal is to make sure we have all the information.”

He said the committee is approaching the ordinances with a “very wide scope.”

A year ago, after passing the moratorium, the committee decided it would tackle the solar ordinance first to get its feet wet in the process. That proposed ordinance, under development since September, is up for a public hearing Jan. 31, and a draft of the proposal is online at

Businesses are waiting

Hiland has said there are companies across DeKalb County waiting to erect solar panels once the ordinance passes.

The draft ordinance includes regulations for the height of a structure, setback from the property line and roads and distance from neighboring residences. Permit fees are based on designated kilowatts for the installation.

The ordinance also takes zoning into account. A private system like a roof or ground mount used for a residence or a business would be allowed in all zoning districts. A solar garden, defined as an array no more than 5 acres in size and providing power to multiple residences or businesses in all zoning districts would require a special use permit.

A solar farm, defined as being used for the wholesale generation of electricity and being the primary use of the parcel its located, would require a special use permit and be in an A-1 agricultural zoned district.

Taking into consideration a potential solar farm’s neighbors, the ordinance would also require the system be minimized from view, and that any potential glare is not projected onto adjacent properties. Restrictions on glare are increased when near an airport – any solar farm or garden within 500 feet of an airport must complete and provide the results of the Solar Glare Hazard Analysis Tool.

Wednesday’s Planning and Zoning Committee meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. at the Legislative Center Gathertorium at 200 N. Main St., Sycamore, and the public hearing for the solar ordinance will be there at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 31.

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