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Board shines on more solar farm proposals

An active solar farm sits east of Streator in Otter Creek Township.
An active solar farm sits east of Streator in Otter Creek Township.

The La Salle County Board approved more potential solar farms Thursday, but concerns were raised about a storage battery.

The board voted to allow a solar farm along U.S. 52, east of Mendota, to be run by DG Illinois Solar on property owned by Chad Wixom and Mark Wixom. The facility, if built, would have a storage battery, which prompted several board members, led by Tom Walsh, D-Ottawa, and Mike Kasap, D-La Salle, to question whether extra safety measures were needed, as such a battery would hold industrial-level power.

Walsh and Kasap proposed a condition go along with the board's approval of the farm, which would require monitoring of any battery. The proposal was voted down, with Jerry Myers, R-rural Streator, voicing criticism.

Myers said the project developers would put millions of dollars into the farm and would take measures to protect the facility.

"Why should we be micromanaging their business?" Myers asked.

Details were also skimpy on the storage battery, prompting David Zielke, R-Leland, to wonder, "Why should we put stipulations on something we don't even know? That's government at its worst."

The vote to approve the farm, without the Walsh-Kasap condition, went ahead and was given a thumbs up.

The board also approved another proposed solar farm, which did not mention a storage battery, a few miles east of Tonica. The facility would be run by SRE Solar Origination on land owned by Marilyn Briscoe, Leah D. Moore and Ruth A. Tomanek.

Not all proposed solar farms will be built, as the state has a lottery system for giving the final go-ahead to qualified proposals.

In other action, the board agreed to change the Streator Area Enterprise Zone to include the Livingston County municipalities of Pontiac, Dwight, Fairbury and Forrest, as well as various unincorporated parts of Livingston County.

The board further agreed with La Salle to extend the J.C. Whitney tax increment financing district by another 12 years. The extension was made in connection with construction of the new Waltham School.

The board also gave student awards to Alexis Linder, of Serena Middle School and Emma Freebairn, of Serena High School.

The board next meets at 1 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 1.

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