To the Editor:
I strongly urge the McHenry County Board to approve the proposed McHenry Township community solar project. It is time to listen to reason, not to fears. Com Ed, in a recent bill insert, touted “clean, pure energy” from the sun and the growth of “community solar energy system[s].”
Land that is viable for solar is almost all zoned agricultural. While we all honor the need to preserve productive farmland, the harsh economic realities show that much farmland is no longer economically sustainable. The owners will survive by leasing the land to the solar energy partnership. Where should solar systems go? None of the opponents have articulated a feasible alternative.
Much has been said about the County’s Comprehensive 2030 Plan, which denotes the site as future residential. However, land use plans are only intended as broad guidelines, not set in stone.
The 2030 Plan also calls for renewable energy siting without any specifically denoted locations. Which brings us to the fact that our county’s population is dropping, so pointing to “residential” on that existing farmland is not a valid argument. Secondly, one of the key advantages of using land for solar is to avoid future residential development which would be a drain on the local economy, rather than the boost that solar will provide.
The solar site is located the length of two football fields away from any roads. It will be fenced off to prevent vandalism, and fast-growing evergreen trees will be planted along the perimeter to further block off the view. Any worries about property values can be put to rest with the knowledge that solar systems exist in other areas with zero declines in property values.
Members of the Zoning Board of Appeals have concerns over the length of the conditional use permit. The national average for solar projects is about 25 years. The developer requested 40 years as a negotiating starting point, while ZBA members started at 10. The developer is willing to move toward a compromise. Our local officials need to do the same.
It’s natural to fear something new. It’s time to overcome those fears.