New state requirements and incentives are drawing renewable energy developers to Illinois.
The 2016 Future Energy Jobs Act requires Illinois utilities to have renewable sources account for 25 percent of their retail power by 2025, The Chicago Tribune reported . The act has an annual budget of more than $200 million to create programs and incentives that encourage solar development.
The state hopes to add 2,800 megawatts of solar energy over the next few years, which would power about 450,000 homes. The state Commerce Commission's renewable energy credits plan calls for new large-scale solar farms, community solar gardens and rooftop solar installations.
Kankakee County has 25 proposed solar farms, likely due to the area's relatively inexpensive farmland and easy access to the ComEd grid, said Delbert Skimerhorn, the county's planning department manager.
"Kankakee County happens to be very forward-thinking in terms of where they want to fit in to the renewable program in Illinois," said Scott Novack, senior developer for solar energy company Cypress Creek Renewables. "They were one of the first counties to have an ordinance that dictated the rules and regulations for developers to operate in the county, specifically for solar."
Some area residents worry the projects will negatively impact property values, the area's landscape and residents' health.
Wendy Menigoz, 51, lives about a block from Community Power Group's proposed solar garden in St. Anne. She said she's concerned the switch from soybeans to solar panels will negatively impact her property value.
"We bought our houses and we moved out there for the view, for the neighborhood, for the deer that run across the field," she said. "This is going to block that."