With a Memorial Day session vote, the House passed an Illinois Farm Bureau legislative priority that protects farmland during commercial solar development. The legislation is making its way to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk.
House sponsor Rep. Charlie Meier, R-Okawville, said that protecting farmland involved in solar farm projects will allow the industry to develop in Illinois responsibly. “It’s a win, win, win,” Meier said. “It’s a really good bill.”
SB 2591, sponsored by Sen. Scott Bennett, D-Champaign, sets guidelines to protect farmland and requires solar energy developers to enter into an agricultural mitigation impact agreement (AIMA) with the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) at least 45 days before construction.
Bennett called the legislation “a testament to what can happen when members of different political parties” work together.
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A House Republican sponsor and a Senate Democratic sponsor, both of whom have farm backgrounds, with “help from the Illinois Farm Bureau got a really good result we hope we can build on in the future,” the senator said.
Meier noted the AIMAs will protect farmland into the future by setting restoration standards for deconstruction of a commercial solar site and require financial assurances for restoration if a project was abandoned and deconstruction was needed.
Commercial solar energy projects will provide construction jobs, permanent jobs and add new tax revenue to local tax districts, Meier said.
As proposed in the legislation, IDOA will post a template AIMA on its website. Bill Bodine, IFB associate director of state legislation, encouraged landowners who are contacted by a solar company to review the AIMA template and educate themselves about the restoration standards it includes.