Farmers throughout Illinois continue to receive letters from solar companies offering cash in exchange for use of their land.
And the interest continues to grow.
Garrett Thalgott, an Illinois Farm Bureau attorney, said the number of solar companies looking for land in Illinois has increased in the last year. The number of farmers receiving offer letters has also increased.
IFB has held informational meetings in 12 counties throughout the state to explain solar agreements.
Last week, more than 180 property owners in McLean County attended a meeting sponsored by the McLean County Farm Bureau. Thalgott and representatives from Cypress Creek Renewables LLC gave presentations to the crowd.
Thalgott, who didn’t offer the crowd an opinion on whether to sign the agreements, suggested landowners be cautious and consult a lawyer before signing anything. He encouraged farmers to weigh any offers against what the farmer could be giving up.
“You might be thinking at first glance, ‘Woah, they’re offering a lot of money. That’s a pretty good deal. Where do I sign?’” he said. “What you need to do is read the terms closely, talk to your own lawyer and figure out, is it really worth it.”
Cypress Creek Renewables LLC, formed in May 2014, currently has 4 gigawatts of solar farms in 15 states, said Jason Carr, Cypress Creek’s community relations director.
Typically, the projects range in size from 2 megawatts (MW) to 20 MW, Carr said. A 2 MW facility would require about 15 to 20 acres, he said, while a 10 MW facility would require 70 to 75 acres.
The company typically seeks out land within a two-mile radius of an electric substation.
“We are essentially tying into the local grid system and supplying power on the local level,” Carr said.
Representatives couldn’t say how many solar farms they want to build in McLean County, other than “somewhere between two and 184.”
Officials addressed questions ranging from the safety of solar panels to noise and maintenance needs to the decommissioning process.
Illinois Farm Bureau offered the following tips when considering a solar lease agreement:
- Research the company.
- Seek the advice of an attorney.
- There’s bargaining power in numbers.
- Contact the Farm Services Agency if the land is included in a government farm program.