Solar farmland protection negotiations continue

Legislation would require commercial solar developers to have an agreement with IDOA.

By Kay Shipman

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Solar energy developers continued to negotiate on an Illinois Farm Bureau state legislative priority to provide guidelines for commercial solar farm development.

IFB supports SB 2591, sponsored by Sen. Scott Bennett, D-Champaign, and HB 4651, sponsored by Rep. Charlie Meier, R-Okawville. The legislation requires commercial solar energy developers to enter into an agricultural impact mitigation agreement (AIMA) with the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA).

The goal is to protect landowners and assure land impacted by construction and deconstruction be properly restored.

“The discussions with commercial solar developers have been difficult at times,” said Bill Bodine, IFB associate director of state legislation. “However, we have made progress towards reaching an agreement to require developers to sign an AIMA, but the deadline for passing a bill is quickly approaching.”

Related: Bills related to covered farm vehicles, overweight truck fines advance in General Assembly. Read more here.

Bodine explained if the legislation becomes law, IDOA will post a template AIMA on its website. “Landowners contacted by a solar company should carefully review the AIMA template before making a decision,” Bodine said.

AIMAs set minimum construction standards on agricultural land to address issues and avert problems, now and in the future, caused by renewable energy and utility projects.

“The reason these AIMA standards are there is to protect landowners’ best interests,” Bodine added.

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