CHAMPAIGN — A prospective rural Ludlow solar site was not included in an Illinois Power Agency lottery Wednesday.
The rural Ludlow site was proposed on a 36.77-acre tract of farmland adjacent to the electric substation at the southeast corner of the intersection of County Road 3300N and County Road 1300E in Ludlow Township.
Community Power Group proposed its development.
Only five area “community solar” projects were big winners in the lottery held in Chicago, where about 10 percent of nearly 1,000 proposals snagged the renewable-energy credits made possible by the Future Energy Jobs Act.
In the larger-community category — mostly 2-megawatt projects that will generate electricity Illinoisans likely can buy through subscriptions — only one Champaign County project was chosen: a 2-megawatt farm proposed by Forefront Power near Sidney.
According to power agency Director Anthony Star, 2-megawatt solar farms make enough electricity to power about 1,500 to 2,000 homes and typically use about 15 to 20 acres of land.
“Community solar” projects provide access to solar power to residents who can’t put arrays on their roofs.
Also making the cut on Wednesday were three community solar projects in Vermilion County — one in a field outside Ridge Farm, another at the former GM Foundry site in Tilton and a third in a field near the Danville Correctional Center — as well as one in Iroquois County on the outskirts of Watseka’s southwest side.
Not a part of the power agency’s lottery were another 740 “large distributed generation” projects that were also awarded. These projects, which generally consist of smaller arrays at businesses or homes, do not connect directly to the power grid and offer subscriptions. Instead, Star said, they are designed to offset electricity use where they are located, like the one at Monticello Middle School — one of about 70 approved in Champaign and surrounding counties.
Superintendent Vic Zimmerman called the proposed 840-kilowatt project on a 4.9-acre grassy area behind the middle school a “behind the meter” solar array.
“The energy that is gathered from the solar panels will go right into the school and be used,” he said.
The tax credits, he said, will not benefit the district but instead its vendor, Clean Energy Design, which will build the solar array.
Zimmerman said the district will lease the property to Clean Energy, which will build the solar array and charge the district for the energy to offset its costs for the panels. That will result in the district cutting its power bill in half over the next 20 years.
The savings, he said, is estimated at $1.1 million over 25 years.
Zimmerman said he’s happy to know the project has been approved, although the school board still has details to work out with Clean Energy.
“If we can do anything to save money for our district, and ultimately the taxpayers, that’s a good thing,” he said.
Next, all projects approved by the state power agency move to the Illinois Commerce Commission for approval. Star said the ICC is likely to approve the majority of them.
He said his agency tried to be vigilant about making sure the approved projects are far enough along that they will happen, but if they don’t, some of the hundreds that are now on a waiting list could get bumped up.
Either way, thousands of solar arrays should eventually be built, Star said.
“So it’s a major step forward,” he said.