Wednesday, November 15, 2017
IFB hopes to encourage solar projects while protecting landowners' rights.
Heather Poppy, of Henry County, said solar energy projects require 5-6 acres per megawatt, and most companies are interested in about 30 acres of farmland. (Photo courtesy of USDA)
By Deana Stroisch
With nearly 30 solar companies soliciting farmers across the state, Illinois Farm Bureau’s Resolutions Committee endorsed a new solar energy policy intended to protect the rights of landowners while encouraging development of solar energy projects.
Under the proposal, IFB supports public and private efforts to develop solar energy projects in the state and opposes giving private solar energy development companies utility status.
Heather Poppy, of Henry County, said the National Resources Subcommittee discussed the proposal by White County at length.
“Eighty-four counties have been impacted by solar energy in the past 24 months,” said Poppy, who serves as the subcommittee’s chair. “It’s a widespread issue for Illinois farmers. We learned that, on average, it takes 5 to 6 acres per megawatt. And most companies are interested in about 30 acres of farmland. There’s a great impact on farmers, and there are other issues I think that this policy tries to address, such as making sure the companies pay taxes.”
Related: Resolutions Committee sets stage for IFB policy discussion. Click here.
Poppy said the proposal also seeks to protect property rights.
Delegates will have the final say next month during Illinois Farm Bureau’s Annual Meeting in Chicago.
Under the proposed policy, IFB would support, among other things:
- Requiring an Agriculture Impact Mitigation Agreement to be filed with the Illinois Department of Agriculture for solar energy projects exceeding 5 acres of surface impact.
- A requirement to locate solar energy projects on land where the mineral rights are 100 percent owned or controlled by the surface owner.
- A statewide standard for assessing solar energy needs.
- Legislation requiring the owner of the solar energy project to pay 100 percent of the property taxes associated with their solar energy generation at the time they are due.
- Efforts to locate solar energy projects on marginal or underused lands, including brownfield sites, rather than highly productive, tillable farmland.
- Legislation allowing a landowner the option to terminate a solar lease agreement if the solar panels fail to produce energy for a period longer than 12 months.
IFB staff continues to travel the state to conduct informational meetings about proposed leases with solar companies. About 20 meetings have been held to date, in addition to a webinar.
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