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Illinois sees increase in renewable energy developments

An active solar farm sits east of Streator in Otter Creek Township. The state has seen an increase in renewable energy developments due to the 2016 Future Energy Jobs Act, including about a dozen proposals in La Salle County.
An active solar farm sits east of Streator in Otter Creek Township. The state has seen an increase in renewable energy developments due to the 2016 Future Energy Jobs Act, including about a dozen proposals in La Salle County.

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.

La Salle County has seen the uptick.

Currently, there are five approved solar projects among Groveland, Osage, and Richland townships, three others that went before the zoning board of appeals last week — two of those were recommended for County Board approval — then three other solar projects that will be on future agenda for the zoning board of appeals, according to the Environmental Service and Land Use department.

Not all of these projects are likely to be constructed. The idea is for developers to get approval first, then make decisions on whether to move forward with the projects.

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.

In comparison, 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.

Additionally, La Salle County has seen two plans for more wind turbines, one project calling for more turbines in the wind farm near the La Salle Generating Station and another for more turbines in the wind farm in Otter Creek Township.

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