Solar farm proposed to help power Kendall County Courthouse

By: Linda Girardi – The Beacon-News

Yorkville is poised to review a proposal for a 7.4-acre solar farm designed to supply power to the Kendall County Courthouse.

The project has been touted by the Kendall County Board as an energy- and cost-saving move.

Lincoln, Nebraska-based GRNE Solar is seeking special use permit approval from Yorkville to install and operate a solar farm consisting of about 6,400 solar modules at the southeast corner of John Street and Beecher Road west of the Kendall County Government campus in Yorkville.

The proposal will go before the Yorkville City Council Economic Development Committee Oct. 2.

The plan has also has been tentatively set for a public hearing before the Yorkville Planning and Zoning Commission at 7 p.m. Oct. 10 at Yorkville City Hall.

The Kendall County Board in March approved a 25-year power purchase agreement with GRNE Solar, after it had commissioned Aurora-based Progressive Energy to find ways to lower energy costs for the county.

Progressive Energy issued an invitation to solar companies to bid on the county project. Chris Childress, managing partner of Progressive Energy Group, said GRNE Solar was the winner out of nine companies that had submitted proposals.

GRNE Solar would build the solar farm at no cost to Kendall County. The company would sell the power generated from the field back to the county.

This is the second solar farm proposal in Yorkville to come before the City Council this year. Cenergy Power, which had requested special use permit approval to install and operate 7,000 solar modules on 10 acres of leased farmland near Routes 126 and 71, withdrew its application in June after hearing the objections of five of the eight City Council members.

Aldermen had concerns about the visual impact the solar farm would have on the nearby Raintree Village subdivision, which has single-family homes, multi-family units and condos.

Aldermen said that while they are supportive of solar energy, the site was too close to residential properties.

City officials said the site of the county’s proposed solar farm would be directly north of the Blackberry Woods subdivision.

“The petitioner will have to prove why it would be a suitable location and not detrimental for the health and safety of the surrounding areas,” Yorkville Senior Planner Jason Engberg told The Beacon-News.

Yorkville city staff conducted research on the 10 residential properties in Blackberry Woods that are closest to the proposed development. Eight of those properties are single-family homes and two are vacant lots, Engberg said in a staff memo to aldermen.

The distance of residential backyards to the solar farm ranges from 60 to 95 feet, according to staff. The closest solar panel to a residential property line would be 85 feet, with the average distance being 160 feet for the properties surveyed.

Yorkville Community Development Director Krysti Barksdale-Noble said staff has recommended that the entire proposed solar farm be screened with a solid fence to reduce the impact on the subdivision.

GRNE had originally proposed a 6-foot chain link fence to surround the perimeter of the solar farm.

Engberg said the developer proposes to use a type of solar panel system constructed of dark materials covered with anti-reflective coatings designed to absorb light and not reflect it.

The panels would be motorized so as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west they would move to collect the most sunlight,.

The developer said an independent study indicates the panels would not produce glare for nearby residents.