RIDGE FARM — One of a handful of local “community solar” projects selected in the Illinois Power Agency lottery earlier this year is moving forward with plans to begin construction next year in southern Vermilion County.
Dynamic Energy, headquartered in Pennsylvania, hopes to begin building a 2-megawatt solar array on 15 acres of farmland southeast of Ridge Farm, according to Micah Fuchs, business development director with the solar company.
“We’re pretty excited to get moving on this project,” he said.
The Vermilion County Board is set to vote on approving a permit for the solar farm at its monthly meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the county administration building, 201 N. Vermilion St., Danville.
Construction would take about three months, said Fuchs, who declined to disclose the total project cost.
Dynamic Energy also won renewable-energy credits for two other solar projects in DeKalb and Jo Daviess counties in the Illinois Power Agency’s April lottery, which awarded credits to only about 10 percent of 1,000 proposals.
He said this is the company’s only solar project in Ameren Illinois’ territory, and the site was chosen because it’s near an electrical substation. The company will be signing a 30-year lease with the property owners.
These three projects will be the company’s first in Illinois, but Fuchs said Dynamic Energy is about 10 years old and has solar projects all over the northeast. He said his company hopes Illinois approves another round of funding for renewable-energy credits, because it and others want to do more projects like this.
“And there’s definitely demand from the folks who are interested in subscribing,” Fuchs said.
The Ridge Farm project will be a community solar array that will supply electricity to the grid and allow Ameren customers the opportunity to buy the solar power through subscriptions, which can be attractive to residents who want to participate in solar power but do not want to, or cannot, put solar panels on their own property.
Fuchs said the terms of the lease ensure that the property owner keep the land and that it will return to farmland if the lease ends.
Fuchs said the company will likely focus on selling subscriptions to Ameren customers near the solar farm. Past experience has shown that the focus should be on customers who have a more direct connection to it and where their electricity is coming from, he said.
He said the solar panels will be less than 8 feet high — no taller than the corn grows — and the site will have a fence surrounding the perimeter with native plants and grasses covering the ground to help retain moisture.
Typically, he said, an array this size produces enough electricity to power 700-1,000 homes.