Gary L. Smith | The Peoria Journal Star
LACON — Marshall County has become something of a hotbed of the 2-megawatt “community solar” projects that are a staple of the state’s emerging solar industry, and three are scheduled for public hearings this week before the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Highland Park-based Trajectory Energy Partners LLC, which has been the dominant developer in the county, will be seeking special use permits in separate hearings Thursday for new projects in the Lacon and Sparland areas, as well as expansion of an already permitted project outside Henry.
In addition, recent legislative action will make it possible to provide the public at those hearings more specific information on developments shaping some key components of the industry, said Trajectory managing partner Jon Carson.
“There’s a lot going on,” Carson said in a recent interview. “It seems like as we go through this process, every time we’ve had hearings, there’s been more and more updates.”
The new projects would be at the northeast edge of Lacon and northwest of Sparland. The expansion would be just north of Henry, where reconfiguration of a permitted project would increase the capacity from 1.3 megawatts to the maximum of 2.
The hearings will begin at 7 p.m. at the Marshall County Courthouse.
The new developments have come in three laws unanimously approved recently by both houses of the General Assembly, one of which has already been signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner. The other two are widely expected to be, Carson said.
One, which will answer a frequent question at hearings, provides a uniform, megawatt-based assessment level for all commercial solar farms, much like a step taken earlier for wind farms. It sets an initial assessed value of $218,000 per megawatt, with taxes to be paid by the owner of the solar installation.
“Depending on the mill rate in a given jurisdiction, we think that a (2-megawatt) community solar project is going to average about $15,000 in property taxes per project,” Carson estimated. “We think this is going to be a big benefit to the communities we work in.”