At its second April meeting, the Pontiac City Council revealed that the municipality had received a proposal from Cenergy Power to use leased public land near the Pontiac Municipal Airport to construct and operate two 10-acre solar farm sites and since, has voted to move the process along.
At last Thursday’s Livingston County Board meeting, the body approved two separate solar farm proposals of its own, set for private property.
So, ready or not, solar projects aren’t just coming – they’re already here.
But the Livingston County Farm Bureau is taking as proactive an approach as it can at this juncture, and has scheduled an informational meeting for the end of August. Jody Hughes, the bureau’s manager, said that her organization wasn’t out to take sides in what might soon be a contentious debate in the vein of wind energy conversion systems, but wanted to make sure farmers were as informed as possible about what solar panels are and what the future might hold.
On Aug. 30, the Farm Bureau will host a 7 p.m. program at its Pontiac office concerning solar panels and contracts. Garrett Thalgott, an attorney for the Illinois Farm Bureau, will address standard contract provisions, with the main thrust being solar panels. The attorney will additionally discuss regulations for the state through the Ag Impact Mitigation Agreement and what landowners need to know about this legislation, Hughes said.
Hughes stated that she had been hearing lots from the agriculturalists the bureau serves, who’ve understandably had questions about what the cropping up of solar farms meant for them.
“We’ve gotten multiple questions at our office, and we’ve had a couple of (solar farm) companies come and talk to us as well, trying to spread the word about what they were doing,” she said. “We’re not in the business of promoting that by any means, but we do want farmers to be informed. There are some that are interested and there are some that are not, both sides having understandable positions; whatever works best for your farm.
“What we’re here for is to provide all of the information. We have an unbiased opinion and just go over the facts, the contracts and the legislation.”
The Livingston County Farm Bureau manager did not believe that the exponential growth and spread of projects involving renewable energy, such as wind and solar farms, would not be going away anytime soon, so trying to keep residents as informed as possible was crucial.
“I have heard that there are more than 40 companies across the state, so I would say this is just beginning,” Hughes said. “I think we’re just started to see all of these contracts and companies coming in. I also think that if you have not been contacted yet, you still have strong potential to be contacted. So we’re really trying to be proactive with getting information out there.”
Hughes noted that another meeting at 6 p.m. on Aug. 30 will precede the one concerning solar farms, in which recent changes to the farmland assessment law and the subsequent impact on the latest property tax bills will be discussed.
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