Proposed Solar Farm on East Side of Jacksonville Faces Location Hurdles

By Benjamin Cox on March 27, 2024 at 11:25am

The Jacksonville City Council heard a lengthy presentation for a proposed solar farm within its corporate limits on Monday night.

Representatives from Emmons & Olivier Resources and Summit Ridge Energy discussed a proposed 5 megawatt community solar farm on 58 acres of property located off of East Morton Avenue and Blacks Lane. The property is currently owned by the York Family and is the direct easterly neighbor of the Prairie Knolls subdivision.

The property is not currently a part of the city, but is within its corporate limits. Therefore, it is governed by city ordinance. The proposed solar farm would feed its electricity directly back into the local grid for generation to local businesses and homes, according to representatives from both companies. Summit Ridge Energy consultants also said that they are a owner-operator company, meaning not only would they build the project, lease the ground, but be its permanent owner and operator.

The solar farm currently faces two hurdles for it to move forward. The proposed property currently has residential zoning, and it doesn’t meet the City of Jacksonville’s 1,000-foot setback requirement from all residential zoned areas.

Mayor Andy Ezard says that the City Council and the City’s Plans Commission have to take a closer look at the proposal: “The presentation was basically just an introduction. I think the city council has some time to think it through, hear from constituents, and maybe ask some questions to both companies that might come up after this meeting. I would imagine by the next council meeting that we will go more in depth to see if they want to move on this or not. There’s a lot more to come. This is the first company that has come to us. Summit Ridge Energy has been doing projects around our area in Woodson and Meredosia, but now it’s here.”

Both companies’ representatives says that Jacksonville was specifically approached because of the need on the local grid.

Summit’s representatives said their would be a potential for residents to subscribe to the power on the supply side of their electric bill, and they would see a percentage dropped off of that portion of their bill. The subscription service would only be offered to Ameren-Illinois customers, and not to the city’s electrical aggregation customers through Constellation Energy.

The project is expected to generate approximately $680,000 of tax revenue over the 35-year lifespan of the project. Unless the city annexes the property, that revenue would go to the county rather than the city.

The project now heads to the City’s Plans Commission for a recommendation about changing zoning, annexation, and the location of the project before a recommendation comes before the full city council at a future meeting.