MORRISON – The Whiteside County Board on Tuesday unanimously approved a land lease and easement deal with a company that plans to build a solar farm on county property.
The board had a letter of intent in place with Roseville, Minnesota-based IPS Solar, which plans to build the solar farm on about 105 acres of property at the closed Prairie Hill landfill at 18762 Lincoln Road. The lease is for the landfill site and 20 additional acres of land across U.S. Route 30, behind the Whiteside County Highway Department.
The county was able to negotiate a better deal in the final lease agreement.
“The original proposal called for the county to get $1,000 per acre, but in the final land lease, they agreed to pay $1,200 per acre,” said Gary Camarano, Whiteside County economic development director.
The lease is for 25 years and gives IPS the option for two additional 5-year extensions. The deal calls for a 2 percent annual increase in the lease rate.
If the company maximizes the available acreage in the area, the solar farm would produce 10 megawatts of electricity a year, which could fuel up to 7,500 homes. It takes about 8 acres to produce 1 megawatt of power.
It also could fuel a new revenue stream for the county’s general fund.
“If all goes well and they get to 10 megawatts, over the life of the lease, the county could bring in more than $4.6 million,” Camarano said.
That number assumes the company would opt for both 5-year extensions of the lease.
Renewable energy projects are moving at a rapid pace as companies try to take advantage of the state’s Future Energy Jobs Act. The legislation, passed in 2016, mandates that 25 percent of ComEd and Ameren’s power come from wind or solar by 2025.
The board was upbeat about finding a way to repurpose property that isn’t well suited for other productive use.
“A solar farm requires a lot of area, and a closed landfill makes an excellent site for one,” County Board Chairman Jim Duffy said. “The board is excited about creating long-term value for the landfill and supplying clean energy to the area’s residents and businesses.”
Camarano called the revitalization of the site “poetic.”
“A landfill is a highly visible reminder of the human impact on the environment, and now we are transforming our trash piles into renewable energy,” he said.
The company is eager to get construction started as soon as possible. Now that the lease is in place, the solar farm could be operating within a year.