Solar-farm company owner pledges power discounts for St. Joe residents

Solar-farm company owner pledges power discounts for St. Joe residents

URBANA — The owner of a company that wants to build a solar farm just north of the St. Joseph Sportsman Club said his firm would love to sell the power produced by the farm to local residents at a discount from what they are currently paying traditional electricity providers.

Mike Borkowski of Chicago, an owner of Maryland-based Community Power Group, spoke Thursday at a meeting of the Champaign County Zoning Board of Appeals, which is considering authorizing the solar farm as a special use.

"This spot was specifically chosen because of potential uses," Borkowski said. "We are looking out to the future."

The proposed St. Joseph solar farm would have a total capacity of 2 megawatts of power generation.

"This is a perfect opportunity to utilize farmland and provide incremental tax dollars to the schools," Borkowski said.

He said his company has planned the St. Joseph solar farm to be outside of the ballistic zone of the adjacent shooting range.

Speaking at the meeting, Mayor Tami Fruhling-Voges noted the proposed farm would be less than a half mile from the village boundary.

"How can our community gain any energy savings for benefits from the solar farms?" Fruhling-Voges asked.

"Once we have all the approvals and we are 100 percent certain the project will move forward, we will start looking for subscribers," Borkowski responded. "We will be able to say what the discount will be to the power we will be offering. And we will begin to solicit subscribers."

Borkowski said his company will receive credits for the electricity it produces and sell those credits to his customers. As a result, subscribers can get electricity at a discount.

For example, suppose a customer gets electricity from Ameren and signs up to be a Community Power Group subscriber. The customer could buy $100 in credits for $85, a 15 percent discount. Borkowski said Ameren would give the customer a $100 credit, and Community Power Group could bill the customer $85 for the electricity from the solar farm.

Borkowski estimated about 400 homes would be able to subscribe from his proposed St. Joseph facility.

"Would our community have the first options to these benefits?" Fruhling-Voges asked.

"Absolutely. We want to make sure the subscribers come from this territory," he said.

Fruhling-Voges said the St. Joseph Village Board is drawing up a resolution opposing waivers in regard to the solar farm.

"Our concern is, even though that particular field may not be a prime location for a residence, putting a solar farm out there is a permanent thing that is going to be there for a long time.

"We are concerned if, 35 years from now, the village expanded in that direction, how will it affect our future?"

She said St. Joseph's potential for growth is on the north side of Interstate 74.

"If we do get an opportunity to grow, I would like to see us grow there," she said.

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