Solar farm proposed southwest of Ludlow

LUDLOW — Work continues on a Champaign County zoning ordinance by the Zoning Board of Appeals that would regulate solar farms.

A rural Ludlow Township site is one of two that a Washington, D.C-based company hopes to turn into a community solar farm.

Located about 4 miles southwest of Ludlow, the solar farm would be located at the southeast edge of the corner of County Roads 3300N and 1300E.

“We’re working on amending the zoning ordinance to add requirements for solar farms,” said John Hall, director of Champaign County Department of Planning and Zoning.

The next meeting of the zoning board is scheduled for Thursday, April 12.

“Hopefully this will be referred to the environmental and land use committee for review May 10,” Hall said. “I’m hoping the county board can adopt it on June 21.

“I think it is entirely possible the ZBA could make a recommendation (at the Thursday meeting).  We get a lot of people turning up at these hearings. We take the approach that we’ll listen to you if you come to give testimony, but it kind of cuts into the time the ZBA has to address these issues.”

Hall said the ZBA has received no comments from residents of the area near the proposed rural Ludlow solar farm.

He said neighbors of that site will be notified when the county takes up the application process for the proposed farm.

The zoning board will determine such things as the adequate separation of the solar farm from neighboring dwellings; a road use agreement for construction, (“Although with one of these small farms, that can be waived if the highway commissioner feels it is not necessary,” Hall said); and the noise level, something that Hall said shouldn’t be a problem with this development.

One of the model solar ordinances being considered contained a noise limit of 60 decibels, although some people believe that too high.

A proposed 7-foot-high fence around each solar farm is also being considered.

A decommissioning plan must also be in place that will deal with returning the site to its current state should the company go out of business or go bankrupt.

Hall said he also doesn’t expect there to be any problems with sun glare.

The Ludlow Township farm would be one of two that Community Power Group hopes to develop — the other being near St. Joseph — and one of five that are proposed in Champaign County, although Hall said 20 companies have expressed interest.

Company President Mike Borkowski said Community Power has a number of solar projects throughout Illinois and nationwide. The company has been in business since 2010, and Borkowski said solar power is growing.

“What happened was in December 2016, there was legislation passed in the state of Illinois that has enabled solar power in community solar gardens,” Borkowski said. “What that legislation did was pave the way for solar to the state of Illinois. Prior to that it wasn’t really all that possible. There were certain financial incentives” included in the legislation.

Statewide, the company is proposing to build 30 solar farms.

He said the proposed 2-megawatt solar farm near Ludlow — about 13 acres — is the same size as the one proposed near St. Joseph.

“The idea is that the power will be sold back to the community in some form of a discount through the whole area,” Borkowski said.

The solar farm would generate enough electricity to power 400 homes.

Borkowski said Community Power has an option on the land near Ludlow. The property is currently farm ground.

He said once the solar farm is approved, construction would take about three months.

The rural Ludlow solar farm would be dwarfed in comparison to a proposed rural Sidney one that would generate 150 megawatts.  

The solar farm won’t be the first in this area. In December 2016, one of the first municipally sponsored solar energy units started up in south Rantoul. An open house was held last April. That field, located south of

Heritage Lake, spans 8 1/2 acres and produces an estimated 1.6 million kilowatt hours of electricity anually.


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