The Monroe County Zoning Board of Appeals is holding a public hearing Tuesday night on a proposed community solar farm near Valmeyer.
The hearing will focus on a petition by Borrego Solar Systems for a special use exception to allow for the development of a 2 Megawatt Alternating Current solar farm at 2053 State Route 3 just east of Valmeyer.
The company, the second largest commercial solar engineering, procurement and construction company in the country, has been pursuing this since early this year. It likes the location because a high voltage line runs nearby.
The petition has already cleared the planning commission.
The proposal states the community solar farm would cover approximately eight acres of land total, with five of those acres having solar panels.
County zoning administrator Mike Fausz said that area could expand, as the company has said it may build a second phase with more panels closer to Valmeyer if that first phase goes well.
Even if that does not happen, Fausz said this project is called a community solar farm because of its size.
“They call it community because it’s enough to power a community,” he explained. “It will go directly into Ameren’s grid just like any other power would. They should directly generate enough power to cover what, say, a town the size of Valmeyer would actually use.”
Given how much power the solar farm would generate, the county’s solar farm ordinance would classify it as a large solar project.
That ordinance, which is available on the zoning and building page on monroecountyil.gov, was passed Feb. 5, 2018.
Although none of that power would go directly to Monroe County, Fausz said there is a clear benefit to residents.
“You’d have a tax valuation on solar panels,” he said.
If the zoning board of appeals OK’s the petition, the county’s role in this process would be finished until Borrego Solar Systems applies for a building permit.
Before it does that, the company would apply for a lottery to get state incentives. That would help determine if the solar farm would be built.
“Just because the county approves this doesn’t mean it’s going to be built,” Fausz noted. “With any of these energy programs, a lot of it relies on what incentives they can get from the state and federal government.”
Those wishing to voice an opinion on whether the board should approve this petition can do so at the hearing, which takes place at 7:30 p.m. in meeting room 200 of the Monroe County Courthouse.