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None of the three Piatt County community solar proposals were green lit for renewable-energy credits at the initial Illinois Power Agency lottery on April 10, but smaller projects were approved for two Piatt County school buildings.

If the two school districts proceed with solar arrays, energy from the sun will provide most of the power needs for Monticello Middle School and Atwood-Hammond Grade School.

“The energy that is gathered from the solar panels will go right into the school and be used,” said Montiello School Superintendent Vic Zimermman of the 840-kilowatt proposal that would see solar panels erected on 4.9 acres of grass behind the middle school building.

The tax credits, he said, will not benefit the district but instead its vendor, Clean Energy Design, which would build the solar array.

Zimmerman said the district will lease the property to Clean Energy, which would build the solar array and charge the district for the energy to offset its costs for the panels. That could 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.

The school district would also need zoning approval from the City of Monticello to proceed.

Atwood-Hammond’s solar farm would provide 150 kilowatts of power for its grade school in Atwood. GreenKey Solar is its partner for the project.

Others on the approved list for renewable energy credits in the smaller generation category included David Lampert (15 kilowatts) and Syb. Inc. (99.4 kilowatts), both of Monticello.

Community solar

None of the three community solar proposals for Piatt County received energy credits, a prerequisite for their construction. Community solar projects differ in that they are larger, and would offer patrons the opportunity to purchase solar power through subscriptions without erecting their own panels.

“It’s a little disappointing,” admitted Alex Farkes of Borrego Solar Systems, which had proposed a pair of 2-megawatt (2,000-kilowatt) solar arrays on farmland just southwest of DeLand.

They are No. 422 and 437 on a waiting list, but Farkes said he is not sure how the new initiative’s waiting list will work.

“Nobody knows if the order matters; whether they’ll shuffle it,” he added.

Nathan Wozniak, the spokesman for the pair of 2-megawatt US Farmer City Solar projects agrees, and hopes the state will open up more energy credit opportunities in the near future.

“There is legislation pending that would increase the renewable energy goals of Illinois to 100 percent and hopefully allocate funds towards some if not all of the projects on the waiting list. We are keeping a close eye on how this legislation moves forward and how it affects the projects on the waiting list including our Farmer City project but that’s really all we know at the moment,” said Wozniak of their projects, which are tanked No. 251 and 386 on the overall list of 486.

If the order of the waiting list matters, the Maddon Creek/Geronimo Energy proposal for Piatt County near Mahomet has the best chance, as it is No. 77 on the list.

“The state had a tough problem. A lot of projects and not a lot of time,” added Farkes.

The renewable energy credits were made possible by passage of the Future Energy Jobs Act in Illinois.

A 2-megawatt solar farm can generate enough electricity to power about 1,500 to 2,000 homes.

 

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