Midwest Energy News: Illinois bills for solar on farmland await governor’s signature

by Kari Lyderson

A trio of bills awaiting the governor’s signature in Illinois is the latest development in preparing the state for an expected massive influx of solar energy development sparked by the state’s 2016 Future Energy Jobs Act.

The bills seek to standardize and codify requirements and expectations for large-scale ground-mounted solar installations being built on farmland and other rural parcels by solar developers leasing space from landowners.

A great increase in such developments is expected, as the energy law calls for the construction of 3,000 MW of solar and offers incentives in the form of Solar Renewable Energy Credits.

“There’s always concern when you have a new industry come in,” said Kevin Semlow, state legislation director for the Illinois Farm Bureau, which played a lead role in shaping two of the bills. “Our members just wanted that clarity so there’s a starting place when companies come out talking about signing leases. We’ve already seen that there have been numerous companies throughout the state asking for leases.”

Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Centerwhich helped shape all three bills, said the diverse array of groups participating in the discussions show the widespread support for solar in the state.

“When there were just a couple [large solar] projects here and there, they could be treated as one-offs,” Learner said “So the trio of solar energy bills passed in Illinois by a strong bipartisan majority reflects the growing progress of solar energy development…There’s now sufficient development growing and moving forward that it makes sense to flesh out the policy framework.”

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