SYCAMORE – More and more solar energy projects are making their way through DeKalb County.
The DeKalb County Board approved special use permits for four separate solar panel array developments during its meeting Wednesday night. That comes after several projects that would power as many as 300 homes a solar farm have been recommended for approval, some as recently as late last month.
Derek Hiland, community development director for DeKalb County, said there are more than 20 solar projects at various stages of the local approval process going through the county since board members passed a solar ordinance that went into effect April 1.
“But I expect more to come,” Hiland said.
The solar proposals keep coming as the county’s Planning and Zoning Committee continues to draft a wind energy ordinance. The county passed a moratorium last year on wind energy projects for 18 months or until a wind ordinance is passed.
Hiland said he doubts that all the solar power projects will be approved by the state. He said he thinks only a fraction of the projects will end up being developed within DeKalb County and noted that all projects would have to be fully removed in the decommissioning process per the county’s solar ordinance.
Hiland said the majority of the public hearings for the solar projects have gone with little input from residents. He said most input has included questions from neighbors of proposed project sites.
“But I haven’t heard anyone in strict opposition to solar farms,” Hiland said.
County Board member Misty Haji-Sheikh, who serves the county’s 7th district near Northern Illinois University, said most constituents seem to be in favor of the solar farms, as opposed to wind farms. She said a lot of her constituents specifically are in favor of being green in general.
Haji-Sheikh said she’s even starting to see signs opposing wind towers within the DeKalb city limits, where residents may not be directly affected by the turbines, as County Board members continue to help create the wind ordinance.
“Even for us, solar was an easier process than wind,” Haji-Sheikh said.
County Board Chairman Mark Pietrowski said the future of solar in the county seems promising, but it depends on state and even federal approval on whether it’ll happen within DeKalb County.
“We’re hopeful that the current [Trump] administration sees the benefit in that,” Pietrowski said.
Public hearings for two more 2-megawatt solar power projects in Milan and Somonauk townships are scheduled for 1:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. Thursday at the Administration Building’s Conference Room East, 110 E. Sycamore St.